January 29, 2009

the kampung taste

Like every true Chinese families, family gatherings and celebrations is about chomping down food and gamble. Well, at least my family keep this tradition. 


Despite having to find comfy spot in the overcrowded house of over 30 people, no internet, and shouting babies, I look forward for every meal, back at my grandparent’s house.

With every meal prepared, I notice how my 70 year old grandmother make sure things are prepared her way. The long hours and the old kitchen with character, seems to be the busiest place all the time.

And since I started this ‘chaokar smokes project’ I tend observe  on food preparation and I notice carefully that my family loves the nyonya / peranakan influence in our daily meals.

Just look at this simple lunch, we ate while waiting for the rest of the relatives to come back.

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A simple ‘ikan kembong goreng’. And it’s heavenly crisp and tasty to fins and bones. So how grandma prepare the dish?

Popo: salt, tumeric powder, and fish

Me: that’s all?

Popo: yeah, and fresh fish. Like real fresh. Fish never taste good anymore if you refrigerate them.

So that’s her secret, she never keep fishes in the freezer, and she buy them fresh off the market whenever she’s cooking them.

So, after frying in hot oil, serve along with other dishes and most important, the sambal belachan.

More CNY food post to come…

Gong hei fatt choy.

January 10, 2009

oh my yin tsai

One of my all time favorite leafy herb which is also know as yin tsai or cilantro. It's a love-hate herb, people seemed to love it or hate it, hence the contradicting name in Chinese xiang chai (frangant vege) vs. chou chai (smelly vege).

I love it in my soups, stir fries and raw.  It's like a stronger taste of celery.
Whenever my mum make pak cham kai (steamed chicken) this would be a must-have side dish that we we eat it fresh with the tender steamed chicken, and dipping. 

Whenever I buy them from the market, I would choose a tender / younger bunch, for it's leafy crunch. The roots made great stock too. Keep then in the freezer after cleaning it and brushing off the dirt, and add it in to your soups, stews, and any soupy / gravy-based dishes.

So this is what I use my yin tsai for; steamed eggy prawns and scallops.

This is also another easy dish. To me, seafood always taste better when you steam them, as they maintain the sweetness and the freshness of the texture. This is how it goes;

- 6-8 pcs medium prawns (butterfly cut: spilt the middle, twist the tail from the bottom and turn it back, and it opens up beautifully)
- 6-8 pcs of scallops (i bought these frozen Korean scallops, they add in excellent texture)

for the sauce:
- few drops of sesame oil
- few drops of nampla
- few drops of soy sauce 
- pepper
- half a teaspoon of oyster sauce 
and mix them all with two tablespoon of water, then pour over the prawns and scallops. 

add in:
- thinly sliced ginger
- kei chi (wolf berries)
- a beaten egg and some water

Steam for 10 minutes, and serve hot with fresh yin tsai and a dash of soy sauce

Assam Fish

Growing up with Penang + Kelantan  + Thai influence, it is hard to go wrong with anything that is spicy and sour. So with my cravings like a pregnant women, I spent my Saturday afternoon cooking this. Assam Fish.

Steamed assam siakap.

Generally, there are two types of assam fish, there's the tumis style and there's the soupy style. The tumis style is more popular and also you can easily find it in many places. But I remember this soupy version in my family. 

With a little improvisation, I decided to make steam assam fish for my Saturday dinner.

- siakap x 1 (usually I prefer kembong / selar kuning; but it all depends on what's fresh in the market)
- lemon grass x 3 stalk
- 2 onions
- chillies to your spicy preference
- a handful of daun kesum 
- 3 pieces of assam keping (i ran out of assam Jawa, so there's some improvisation)
- a tablespoon of belachan

In this soupy version, instead of frying everything, most of the ingredients are being boiled over medium heat. So I had about 800cc of water, and boil them with the lemon grass, chillies, daun kesum, belachan, assam keping and onion.

For flavors I add in;
- a tea spoon of serbuk kunyit (galangal)
- two tea spoon of chilly powder
- a tea spoon of sugar
- a table spoon of nampla'
- salt and pepper to taste

So boil them for an hour. 

I also add in slices of cucumber (seed and skin the cucumbers and cut it to 1cm thick and 3cm long)

Let it simmer and put the fish in the steaming tray, and scoup the soup and the filling over.
Steam the fish with the sauce for 10 minutes.


This version of the soup assam fish is close to assam laksa.

January 3, 2009

welcoming ChaoKar

Chao Kar, simples means kitchen in Penang Hockkien.
With my love for food, cooking, tasting and all, I want to document things I've tasted and get into making them.

I blame all this food craze to my parents whom now stays in Kelantan (east cost Malaysia), but would drive over 300 kilometres back to Penang (west coast Malaysia) just for their fix of Koey Teow Th'ng, Assam Laksa, Chee Cheong Fun, Java Mee, Passembor, Char Kuey Teow, and more. And being raised in Kelantan, with the neighbouring Thailand (Southern Thai) enhances my experience in chomping down beautiful and tasty food. 

This is going to be an interesting journey.

Chao Kar tuk huei liao
(the kitchen is smoking)