Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mother-in-law's pa-mee (打面)

Everyday you learn something new...

My mother-in-law is heng hua dialect, so one night when we were over at her place for dinner, she cooked a huge pot of what they called, pa-mee (打面). I'm not sure how authentic is it, but it's delicious!

She bought this noodles from the market near her place, and I loved it as it doesn't have the alkaline taste like in those "yellow noodles".

So she gave me a packet and I tried to make a pot one evening. I'm not sure how, but I guess the main things would be the soup base, ingredients and the noodles.

Soup Base
Chicken breast, with bones
Ginger, one thumb size nob, smacked with a knife
Chicken powder

Boil for an hour, skimming off any excess oil or scum. Remove chicken and ginger.

Shitake mushrooms
Pork shoulder, sliced
Cai xing
Toufu fish cakes, sliced

Put everything into the soup base and boil until pork slices are cooked. Adjust flavour accordingly, it should be slightly more salty than usual to balance out the bland noodles.

Put raw noodles in a big bowl, pour boiling water into it and swish it around for a few seconds before pouring away the water. Run under cold water for a few seconds and set aside.

When the soup is ready, add in the noodles and boil for not longer then a minute. Serve!

It's delicious, easy to make, and everybody in the family loved it. Definitely a recipe to keep!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Miss CoCo's Virgin Mooncake

Took a leap of faith and made my very first batch of mooncakes. Well, the first batch was made from a recipe I read on the newspaper, by some chef at Capella hotel. No offence, but it turned out like crap. Looks like I still have lots to learn, I'll summarize all my learning points at the end of the blog.

Since I've already bought a whole kilo of white lotus paste, might as well try again, so I searched the web for a recipe for traditional mooncakes, (only from trustworthy bloggers this time) and found this recipe from Anhsfoodblog. Turns out quite ok, but I did make some slight adjustments.

Here's what we need:

120g golden syrup
40g cooking oil
160g plain flour
½ tsp Alkaline water (or lye water) (I don't like)
¼ tsp baking soda

6 no. salted egg yolk, steamed (didn't bother to buy them)
white lotus paste

1 egg beaten with a little milk
  1. Preparing the skin - Combine the golden syrup, cooking oil together. Mix in the plain flour and stir until you have a smooth paste. Cover, leaving the dough to rest for a few hours.
  2. Filling portion - Big mooncake - wrap 50g : filling 130g Small mooncakes wrap 25g : filling 35g
  3. Wrapping – this steps requite a bit of practice. Make sure when you wrap the filling, no additional flour is around. Start by flatten dough slightly with your hand, then put the filling ball in the middle. Gently wrap the dough all around the filling with smoothing and rounding motion. Be gentle not to break the skin.
  4. Shaping – Gently dust the mould with flour, the tap off any excess. Very lightly, dust the ball with a little flour. Press the mooncake ball into the mould. Knock the mould to release the mooncake. Repeat with the rest.
  5. Baking - Place the mooncakes onto the baking tray, lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated 200C oven for 7-10 minutes.
  6. Take the tray out, and wait until the cakes cool down for 30 minutes. Use a pastry brush, brush a light coat of eggwash onto the mooncake (just the top, don’t brush on the side of the cake). Return the tray to the oven, and bake for further 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT - Let the mooncake rest for at least 3 days before consumption. In Cantonese, we called it 出油, where the oil from the lotus paste and yolk would slowly seep into the mooncake skin, making it shiny and soft.

So with that in mind, next year when you are buying mooncakes, please don't ask the vendor if it's fresh, because there's no such thing as a "fresh" mooncake. Freshly baked mooncakes are hard and dry and terrible in taste!

So with that in mind, here are my notes for making home-made mooncakes:

  1. Prepare early, minimum 1.5 months! As mentioned earlier, you need to keep freshly baked mooncakes for at least 3 days. Also, traditional mooncakes need a special sugar syrup that's made at least a few days to a few months in advance. The sugar syrup would darken over time and the brown syrup would contribute to the rich brown colour of the skin. My dad used to own a bakery and they would make the syrup at least 6 months in advance! Seriously!
  2. Add salted egg yolk. It doesn't matter if you like yoke or not, you should add it anyway. The oil from the yolk would slowly seep into the skin, adding flavour and improving texture.
  3. Use good quality paste. On top of flavour, good quality paste also have higher oil content, so again, contributing to the oiling of your mooncake skin.
  4. Dough should be wet. If your dough is wet and damn difficult to wrap the paste, you probably got it right. They never said it was easy! 
  5. Eggwash - Go easy! If you brush on too much, the delicate pattern on the mooncake would be distorted.

I guess that's it. I've definitely underestimated the complexity of making a traditional baked mooncake. It's so simple yet difficult all at the same time! I would learn from this and make even better ones next year. But seriously, if you aren't a baking enthusiast, it's not worth the effort. Go buy a box and enjoy! Leave all these craziness to the crazy ones. :)

By the way, I'm submitting this very special post to Aspiring Bakers #11: Mid-Autumn Treats (September 2011). Hope all readers enjoy my little post!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

CoCo's Sausage and mushroom thin crust pizza

Was at my wit's end as usual, wondering what to cook for lunch when I remembered that I bought a packet of wholemeal wraps a few days ago.

So I decided to make a little home made thin crust pizza.

It's basically a pizza even people who can't cook can make.

  1. For the tomato sauce base, I spread on some pasta sauce from a jar. 
  2. Next I sprinkled on a generous heap of shredded cheese. Yumz~!
  3. Lastly, put on whatever ingredients you like, which was some sausages and mushrooms. 
  4. Bake the pizza in an oven at 200 degrees celcius for just 10-15mins, which is just enough to melt the cheese and make the crust crispy. Cut and serve!

Unfortunately, my 2 year old wasn't very enthusiastic with the pizza, but I really liked it! It really tasted like those restaurant style thin-crust pizza. I polished off the whole thing myself! Sigh, now I have to go make something else for the little princess... -_-

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Holland Village XO Fish Head Bee Hoon

Hubby and I would often dine here back when I was working around Clementi. Back then, it was located near Holland Village, hence the name. We haven't eaten there since they've moved, which was also around the same time I left that job to become a stay-at-home mom. One Saturday, we had a craving for some of it's soupy goodness, so we found out it's new location and headed there for dinner.

Obviously their signature dish is their XO fish head bee hoon, but they also have one of the best 虾酱鸡 (prawn paste fried chicken) in Singapore. So that definitely is a MUST-TRY dish.

The prawn paste flavour wasn't too heavy and salty like in most ze char stores, and it's served pipping hot to your table, so when you squeeze the lime juice all over the chicken, it makes a slight "sssssss" sound. It's yummy on it's own, but dip it in their special chilli sauce just for this dish, and it would be close to heaven. The chicken is crispy on the outside, and yet oozing with juices when you take a bite. Shiok!!!

By the time you are halfway through your chicken, your XO bee hoon would have arrived. As you would have guessed, they are famous for putting a generous amount of XO liquor into the soup. I'm not into hard liquor, but I love the soup. It's incredibly sweet from all the fish meat and bone and all, plus there's a nice fragrance from the XO that seemed to enhance the fish flavour of the soup. I'm not a fish head person, so we always order the fish meat bee hoon.

As you can see, they are very generous with the fish. Each piece is a huge chunk of sweet meat that isn't dry on the inside. Also, I love that they put loads of vegetables in the soup (it's at the bottom of the bowl). Healthy! :) Their thick bee hoon isn't your average hawker centre type that's semi-translucent and super slippery. It's actually white in colour and slightly rough. My dad once told me that these are actually how bee hoon and kway teow use to be like in the past. Using a higher percentage of rice flour, thus, more flavour and texture.

So the combination of good quality bee hoon, chunky sweet meat, fresh vegetables and a crazy sweet soup base, what's not to love about this dish??

Dover Coffee Hub
Blk 19A, Dover Crescent
#01-05, Singapore 131019

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mooncakes 2011

Mooncake festival is here again! This year we bought our mooncake from Vivo City, rather than the usual fair at Takashimaya. As usual, we tried out most of the mooncakes at the fair and finally decided on two brands. For my parents, Cobby bought from Huating, Orchard Hotel. This year, I bought a box from Mandarin for my mother-in-law. She doesn't like mooncakes, so I've never bought her a box before. But I just wanted to buy something for her. What the heck, we can all eat it after the dinner right?

Anyway, other than the taste, I think that the packaging makes a whole lot of difference when it comes to mooncake shopping. Afterall, the best mooncakes taste very similar. If, as a reputable hotel's restaurant, your mooncake does taste like crap, I think you can just jump off from the hotel itself. So, the deciding factor, after the taste, would be how pretty your packaging is. Afterall, everybody buys mooncakes for SOMEONE else, looks matters.

Orchard Hotel, Huating
Baked mooncake with macadamia nuts and white lotus paste S$42.00

My sister bought a box for my parents from Peninsula Hotel, baked mooncakes with red lotus paste.

There was quite a debate over who's mooncake tasted better, but as my dad had a sweeter tooth, he claimed that the red lotus paste tasted better. He said that their lotus paste is more oily, making it more smooth.

He claims the one on the left is more shiny... can you tell?

Hubby stuck with my choice and said that mine tasted better. As for my brother, well, it all tasted the same to him. -_- Me? I think both tasted great, but different. Hey, different type of lotus paste! Anyway, next year I'm buying red lotus paste mooncake for dad. -_-

For my mother in law, I bought this:
Mandarin Orchard
Baked mooncake with macadamia nut and low sugar white lotus paste, S$50.00

Like I said, I've never bought her mooncakes before, but turned out to be a good decision as the mooncake was delicious! We were blown away by the giant macadamia nuts inside the mooncake.

Usually they would chop it up into small bits, but Mandarin left it in quite big chunks. And it was toasted, so it was very fragrant! It was perfect with the mooncakes, in fact, it tasted like a nutty candy bar. Very different from a regular mooncake, so I really liked it.

All in all, a very satisfying mooncake festival. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Uno Beef House

One day, while heading to our favourite bak chor mee store at Toa Payoh, I just wasn't in the mood for noodles, but my hubby was. It's been a long time since I've had a decent coffee-shop western food, so I gave the western food store next door a shot. The store seemed quite confident of itself, taking up almost half of the whole coffee-shop space. As I stood there, looking at the menu for their steaks, I was shocked to find out that the cheapest cut, which was a sirloin, was a whopping S$11.00.

What?? Has it been that long since I ate western at a coffee-shop? Am I that suaku? Is it inflation? Or has the stall owner gone mad? I wanted walk away, but then I thought, maybe, they are so good, that they are confident enough to charge that ridiculous price at a neighborhood coffee-shop? I was intrigued. So I ordered the beef sirloin and waited.

As I waited at my table, the staff gave me my cutlery. Haha, so nostalgic!

When my dish arrived a few minutes later, another wave of nostalgic hit me. The hot plate cow! It's been so long since I've had a steak served in a hot plate cow! Haha... But after the initial "awww...", a delicious looking steak appeared. Looks promising!

When I ordered, I noticed that they don't serve fries, which kind of bugged me. I love my fries with my steak! But then I noticed this little ball on the plate. When I cut it open, it turned out to be mash potatoes, rolled into a ball, and fried! And it was YUMMY! Ooo... I could eat a few of those!

Next comes the ultimate test, how was the meat? I ordered medium, but was skeptical that a neighbourhood stall cook could achieve that. When I cut the meat right in the middle, my skepticism was confirm. It was almost rare! A little disappointed, but I didn't expect much, so I just carried on eating from the side of the steak. But I was super impressed a few minutes later. As I was eating, the hot plate continued to cook the meat, soon, the meat became PERFECTLY cooked.

Genius! They intentionally under-cook the steak! Oh by the way the meat was quite tender, the pepper sauce was tasty, not too spicy, so it didn't overpower the beef. Other than the beans (which I didn't like), it was a very satisfying meal. Definitely worth going back again. Next time, I'll even try their more expensive steaks!

Uno Beef House
Block 51, Lorong 5 Toa Payoh,
#01-60 Singapore
Opens Daily: 11.30am – 10.30pm
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