Singapore Favourites #1: Singapore Chilli Crab

Chilli crab is one of the famous seafood dishes that originates from Singapore. According to my search on the internet, the Chilli Crab recipe was created in 1950 by Singaporean chef, Madam Cher Yam Tian with her husband, Mr Lim Choon Ngee. The couple ran Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant on Upper East Coast Road (near the present day East Coast Seafood Centre).

Singapore Chilli Crab

Singapore Chilli Crab

Today, it is one of the favourite dishes among Singaporeans and visitors to Singapore, and it is widely known globally. There are quite a number of versions to the Chilli Crab recipe, and I’ve tried and tested a number of times the recipe and I think the recipe by Violet Oon, Singapore’s cooking doyenne, to have the closest taste to those served in some well-known seafood restaurants in Singapore.

This dish is cooked using mud crabs, but here I am using flower crab instead (for personal reasons), and it is equally yummylicious. This is not a very spicy dish, and it is well-loved by my whole family including my girl.

Ingredients:

Chilli Crab

Chilli Crab

Recipe adapted from Violet Oon’s recipe:

3-4 flower crabs (or 1-2 mud crabs) – depending on size
vegetable oil
5-6 cloves of garlic*
8-12 fresh/ dried chilli * (I used dried chilli)
1-3 cups of water
(note: *pounded/ blended to a paste)

2-3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tsp pounded brown preserved soya beans or dark miso
5 tbsp tomato sauce
2-3 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
½ lemon to get approx 1 tsp of lemon juice
1 tbsp of cornflour (mixed with a little water)
1 egg (beaten)
2 spring onions
1 small bunch coriander

Method:

1.  In a pot or a large wok, bring the water to a boil and cook the crab till it’s ¾ done. Remove the crab and set it aside, but DON’T throw away the stock.
2.  In a large wok, heat the oil over high heat.
3.  Add garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute, or till slightly brown.
4.  Add the chilli-garlic paste and stir-fry till fragrant, then add the bean paste and fry a little. Make sure you don’t burn the paste at this stage.
5.  Add the tomato sauce, sugar and the stock and stir well. Let it simmer a little.
6.  At the stage, you can add in the crab and let it simmer further.
7.  Once the sauce bubbles up a little, add in the corn starch and stir it well.
8.  Break eggs into a bowl and whisk it a little to break it up. Slowly pour the beaten egg into the sauce (in a few circles), and let it simmer for approximately 10 seconds, and then turn off the heat.
9.  Add in the lemon juice and stir it once or twice. (Don’t stir it too much)
10. Plate it up and garnish with chopped spring onions and coriander.

Serve this with steam or fried mantou. Although more sinful (because it’s fried), my personal preference is fried mantou. It is somehow tastier when dipping it into the chilli crab sauce!

 

Fried mantou

Fried mantou

 

Singapore Chilli Crab

Chilli Crab with the yummy sauce for dipping with mantou

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Singapore Month

 

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Terengganu Speciality #2b: Nasi Lemak – The Rice

This is related to my previous post. How can you have sambal for the nasi lemak without the nasi (rice) itself. Right?

To me, to make the meal complete, the rice plays an equally important part. It has to be rich, fragrant and yet fluffy. For me, I can eat this on it’s own, or just with a fried egg and ikan bilis. It is that yummy.

My kids, especially my elder girl loved this to bits. Like me, she can eat a whole plate with just a fried egg.

You can either cook in this in a rice cooker entirely, steam it (nasi lemak kukus), or like what I’d usually do in my “cheat” version – is to cook it in the rice cooker THEN steam it.

Note: the amount below is typically cooking to feed an army! – i.e for approx 20-25 pax

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Ingredients:

10 cups of rice
500gm of thick coconut milk (divide into approx 3 portions)
3-4  tsp heap of salt
water
pandan leaves
5-6 shallot – finely sliced
1″ ginger – finely julienne

Method:

  1. Wash the rice and place in rice cooker. Add water enough (for 10 cups of rice) as per cooking instruction but less approx approx 200gm of water.
  2. In place of that, add 200 gm of the coconut milk and approximately 1 tsp of salt. (Taste to ensure the coconut milk-water has a tinge of saltiness)
  3. “Tied-up” the pandan leaves into a knot and add into the rice pot. Cook as per normal.
  4. Once the rice cooker button pops-up, fluff the rice and divide into 2 portion.
  5. Meanwhile prepare a steamer. If you have a 2-tiered steamer, line the top tray with a muslin/ cheese cloth.
  6. In a small bowl, take 1 portion of the thick coconut milk (approx 250gm++), and in it add 1 tsp heap of salt. (Taste to ensure the coconut milk is salty).
  7. In a clean pot, scoop 1/2 the cooked rice into the pot. Drenched the rice with the salted coconut milk (in #6), and also add in half the portion of the sliced shallots and ginger. Gently stir and mix the rice to ensure each grain of the rice is now coated with the thick coconut milk.
  8. Once it is well mixed, pour the rice into the muslin cloth and steam on mid/ high heat for approx 20-30 mins.
  9. Repeat #6-8 with the 2nd half of the cooked rice.

Serve the rice with the sambal ikan aye/ sambal nasi lemak.

 

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Terengganu Speciality #2a: Sambal Ikan Aye (for Nasi Lemak)

I have to confess…. this recipe is crafted based on my own knowledge of cooking nasi lemak sambal and with a lot of trial & errors that I came up with this recipe.

I first cooked nasi lemak while studying overseas. Till today whenever my uni-mates and I meet, they would tell me that they still miss my nasi lemak.  🙂   Back then it was a cheat version using bottled chilli found in Asian grocer store, add some sweet onions and ikan bilis (which I usually would bring from homeland) and voila! we have the sambal for nasi lemak.

This version is slightly more complicated and more similar to the Terengganu version’s of sambal nasi lemak, especially since I’m using Ikan Aye (mackerel tuna fish). For a more simplified version, you can cook just the sambal without adding the fish, or you can just add ikan bilis instead.

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Ingredients:

Singgang Ikan Aye – base for Fish Stock

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Sambal Nasi Lemak Ikan Aye

3kg of Ikan Aye/ Ikan Tongkol (or the Chinese called it “blood fish”) / Mackerel Tuna
(usually we’ll get about two of the 1++kg fish and cut the fish up into 3-4 big chunks per fish)
4-5 pieces of asam keping (asam gelugor)
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 big onion – quartered
a few slices of lengkuas/ galangal
2-3 tbsp salt (depending on how much water is used as the fish stock need to be well salted)
Enough water to cover the fish for boiling (to be used as fish stock)

Sambal
1.5 kg of red onion
—  1 kg roughly chopped, blended with approx 5-6 tbsp of cooking oil into paste
—  0.5 kg cut into smaller cubes or slices (for texture)
40 gm of dried chilli – soak, then blended with ½ cup of water into chilli paste
5-6 shallots – sliced
4-6 tbsp of cooking oil
3 tbsp salt ^^
1 tbsp asam paste^^ (I use Adabi brand – Asam Jawa Xtra) or you can use asam jawa and mix with a few tbsp of water to get the asam juice
12-15 tbsp sugar^^ (substitute with 2-3 tbsp of palm sugar if you have)
The fish stock from the singgang
Note: ** the above measurement is used if adding the fish stock from the “singgang ikan aye”;
if cooking just the sambal (without the singgang), the seasoning maybe slightly different:
3 tbsp salt
2.5 – 3 tbsp asam paste
15-18 tbsp sugar
9-10 cups of water or more

Method:

For the Singgang
1. In a big pot, put the water to boil with all the ingredients except the fish. Once the ingredients soften/ break down, add in the fish and boil for at least another 30 mins or the fish is cooked. Close the lid and leave it to cool in the pot.
2. Best to cook this overnight or a day earlier before making the sambal

For the sambal
1. In a hot wok, add the sliced shallots with the 4-6 tbsp of oil and fry till shallots are browned.
2. Then add the blended onions. Cooked this till the moisture from the onion has reduced and the onions has a slightly brownish tinge.
3. Add the chopped onions and stir till the onions turned opaque/ soften
4. Add in the chilli paste. Stir it till the “raw” chilli smell is reduced, and then add in the fish stock and seasoning.
5. Simmer it in low/mid-fire, stirring occasionally. Simmer for approx 2+ hours or till the sambal “pecah minyak” – ie. you will see sheen of oil with the sambal is bubbling. The sambal will also turned into darker shade of red.
6. Once it’s season to taste and have the right texture, lowered off heat and at this point, if you have the fish, add it in and let it simmer for approximately 5-10mins.

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Sambal (while cooking)

When cooking this, I’d usually cook a big pot of the sambal and would invite my family/ relatives or close friends over for a “makan” (eating) session. Of course the sambal is served with the nasi lemak rice (coconut rice) and condiments. Any leftovers can be kept and eaten over the next few days. Great to make into sandwiches or topped it with instant noodles too.

Note: the above recipe could probably served between 20-25 pax (or more, depending on how much each would eat)

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Nasi Lemak ala Terengganu

Terengganu Speciality #1: Nasi Kerabu

I first wrote and shared this recipe on Facebook on the Malaysian Food Fest: Terengganu Month in October 2012. It was an online event hosted by Lena of HerFrozenWings (no eating involved, except eating the dishes that you cooked). So in a way, I’m reposting this recipe, but now in my own blog.

Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu, also known to many as Nasi Ulam, is a rice dish found in the East Coast of Malaysia (and typically cooked by Malay families). This rice dish is well-loved by my family and it is one of my husband’s favourite. He would ask my mom to make it whenever he craves for local Terengganu food or when we don’t cook it for a long time.

The recipe below is from my aunt who learned it from a local Malay lady. She adapted from the original recipe and perfected it. There’s 5 portion to this recipe:
1) The Rice
2) The Sambal Ikan (or fish floss)
3) The Gravy
4) The Vegetables
5) The Seasoning (which is basically Budu, fermented fish sauce)

 

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Nasi Kerabu ala Terengganu

Ingredients:

The Rice
Rice
Water
Kunyit (Turmeric) – about an inch: sliced
Serai (Lemon Grass)
Pandan leaves

Wash and cook the rice as you’d normally do. Add in the turmeric, lemon grass and ‘knotted’ pandan leaves. Once the rice is cooked, fluff it up and leave it in the rice pot till ready to serve.

The Sambal Ikan (aka Fish Floss)
1” ginger (one thumb size) *
3 shallots *  (*blend together)
Grated young coconut
1 kg ikan selayang (steam and de-boned and flake it)
Salt (1 tsp or more)
Sugar (2 TBsp or more)
Pepper

Steam the fish. Once cooked, de-bone and flake it. Saute the blended ginger-shallots mixture in hot oil till fragrant. Add in the fish and stir-fry the fish till it has less moist. (half-cooked). Set aside.

Add the grated coconut in a clean hot wok and fry till dry. When the coconut is brown (half-cooked), add the above fish flakes. Add salt and sugar to taste. (At least 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt). This need to be slightly more sweet and salty than your normal palate. Set aside to cool. (This fish floss can be done a few days in advance and freeze it till the day you are ready to serve the Nasi Kerabu)

The Gravy
½ bowl of thick coconut milk
½ bowl of water
2 TBsp chilli boh/ paste
1 cube (thumb size) of belacan (dried prawn paste)
4-5 shallots *
1” ginger (thumb size) * (note: *pounded/ blended together)
2 stalks of serai (lemon grass) – cut into 2-3 pieces and pounded the end slightly
Asam jawa (juice) – about 2 tbsp
Salt and sugar to taste

Tumis/ fry the ginger-shallots, chilli boh and serai in hot oil till it’s fragrant. Add the coconut milk, asam juice and water and cooked till the gravy thicken and slightly breaks out in oil (pecah minyak). Add salt and sugar to taste. Set aside to serve with the rice later.

The Vegetables
Daun kunyit (a must have) 2-3 large pieces
Daun kesum (Vietnamese mint) – a handful
Bunga kantan – 1 bud
Mint leaves (optional)
Ulam raja
Pucuk jambu golok
Pucuck putak 
Daun limau purut (2-3 pieces)
Carrot (finely julienne)
Cucumber (finely julienne)
Cabbaged (finely shredded) – approx 5-6 large pieces
Chinese lettuce/ pek chai (in hokkien) (or a.k.a pak choy putih— looks like sawi but the stem is white) – approx 5-6 large bunches.

Finely cut into shreds/ julienne the vegetables. In a large bowl, mixed everything together. (Note: you may omit some of the vege especially those you cant get it in your town).

Bean sprout/ taugeh (raw)
Kacang panjang – approx 10 – cut into small pieces (cubes)
Kacang botol (winged beans) – cut finely
Cucumber (julienne)

Budu mixture: Budu (fermented fish sauce), calamansi juice, finely sliced serai (lemon grass), chilli padi. Mix all in small bowl.

To serve:
I scoop of rice, topped it with a large handful of the mixed vegetables & raw taugeh, spoonful of long beans and winged beans, approx 2-3 tbsp of sambal ikan, 1 tbsp of the gravy (it’s NOT meant to be used like curry gravy but more as flavoring), and 2-3 tsp of budu mixture.

Note: the sambal ikan and budu are the main ingredients that provide flavoring to this dish, thus they need to be well seasoned or else when mixed, the rice will be bland. And it maybe lots of work (cutting the vege, etc) but trust me, it’s well worth the effort.

 

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Kerabu – Sambal Ikan (Fish Floss)

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Kerabu – The mixture of shredded veges

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Kerabu – other raw veges

Kerabu - The Gravy

Kerabu – The Gravy

Kerabu Budu

Kerabu – Budu (fermented fish sauce) with lemon grass and chilli

Best eaten using your hand (I know some may go “ewww” but that’s how most local Terengganu Malays and some Chinese like our family do – we eat rice with our hands, and not with utensils). It just gives you that added “oomph” and it’s fingers licking good at the end of the meal. And also not forgetting, it goes extremely well with another East Coast speciality ie. the keropok keping (fried fish crackers). So those of you who miss Nasi Kerabu, go getting cracking now!

Nasi Kerabu - all mixed and ready to eat. Serve with keropok keping.

Nasi Kerabu – all mixed and ready to eat. Serve with keropok keping.

Dung Po Rou (Pork) 东坡肉: Braised Pork Belly

I have a slab of pork belly sitting in the freezer for some time now which I initially bought to make roast pork (siew yoke). I was cracking my head on what to do with it when I recalled seeing a picture of a succulent piece of pork belly on WendyinKK’s blog.

I did a quick search on “pork belly” and found her ‘Dong Po Pork’. Checked my fridge and kitchen and I have all in ingredients needed to make the braised pork belly. As I was chauffeuring my girls to their enrichment classes in the morning, it would mean that I could only get this dish ready for dinner.

So I spent a good part of the mid-morning and afternoon making this dish, and boy, was it worth the time and effort to make this. The two thumbs-up and gleeful faces I got from my hubs and elder gal were priceless.

The flavour and taste of this pork belly is just superb, The meat and skin just melt in the mouth and the gravy – it’s especially yummy to drizzle it onto a plate of hot steam rice. Both my hubs and girl loved it so much that they had a second helping of rice tonight. So looks like this is something I have to make again soon.

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Dong Po Rou

Dong Po Rou (Pork) 东坡肉 (adapted from WendyinKK)

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Ingredients:

1kg pork belly, skin on
100gm spring onions
50 gm ginger
500gm Shao Xing Wine
100gm light soy sauce
20gm dark soy sauce
80gm rock sugar (or in Wendy’s recipe: brown candy sugar)

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water and scald the pork belly for approx 5 minutes. Drain and set it aside.
2. Cut the spring onions lengthwise (into halves) to fit the base of pot. Slice ginger and placed on top of the spring onions.
3. Placed the boiled pork belly onto the spring onions/ ginger with its skin side down.
4. Measure out the light and dark soy sauces and then pour into the pot. Add the sugar and lastly the rice wine. Add some water if the liquid level is too low.
5. Add some water to ensure that there is liquid covering most part of the pork.
6. Boil the pork on high heat for about 15-20mins, and then reduced it to low heat and simmer for about 2 hours. (I flipped the pork over on its halfway mark). Note: to test for tenderness, see if it can be poked through with a chopstick.
6. Remove pork belly from pot and put into a steaming dish, skin side up.
7. Steam the pork belly on high heat for at least 30 minutes. (According to WendyinKK, this is a crucial step, so do not skip this step)
8. Pour gravy (in pot) over the pork when it has finished steaming.

A great dish to serve with a bowl of warm steam rice. Try it, you won’t regret it.

Note: I used a shallow claypot for braising the pork.

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Putting it into the claypot for braising

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The sliced up pork

 

Note to self: I found out a friend also made the same dish recently and when I read her blog, I noticed that she added star anise and cinnamon when braising the pork. I think I’ll try that next time and see if it’ll enhance the flavour of the pork and the gravy further. Will keep you posted!

Pa-ong: The Terengganu Sweet Breadroll

For as long as I can remember, I grew up eating “pa-ong” as a kid. (Maybe that’s why I’m like a ‘pa-ong’ now! Hahaha) … My grandma and my eldest aunt (ma-yee) used to make it on regular basis. We’d hardly buy any bread. And we’ll always have a fermented tub of yeast ready in the fridge ready to be used at anytime.

When I was away in Australia studying, to keep her busy and to “earn my pocket money” (in her own words), my mom decided to make pa-ong to sell. She adapted her pa-ong recipe from my grandma’s and perfected it. She did it so well that she became a household name. She would also get orders from friends who’d order 20-30 plates when they travel to visit families or friends overseas. So her pa-ong had travelled to places she has never been to before, like US and the UK.

So what makes ‘pa-ong’ different from the store-baked sweet rolls? 

For one, It’s HANDMADE – the texture is different from those machine made. Trust me, we’ve tried as my mom used to sell ‘paong’ in KTrg (in fact she made quite a name for herself in the late 1990s/ early 2000s). There’s just no easy way out.

Secondly, it’s baked in the enamel-coated tray. Those aluminum baking tray just doesn’t make give it the same texture because ‘paong’ needs to have a nice crunchy crust at the bottom. That’s the best part of the bun!

Third, because of the shape of the enamel tray, you’d associate ‘paong’ with that round shape – in 18-21 pieces. Today, when you visit KTrg town, you can see it being sold in many other sizes and ‘shapes’ such as rectangle (probably baked in bread loaf tray) – and in my personal opinion, it’s just not it.

And lastly, during my grandma’s days, the paong is baked using charcoal. According to my aunt, that would give it an even more softer texture. But I reckoned temperature control would be even more difficult.

 

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So depending on the flour, the heat of the oven, it seems that you may get different texture of the bread. What my mom made in KTrg, using the flour there and her own oven at home, she can’t seems to replicate it here in my home in Spore using my oven, or maybe it’s just not her home!

Paong is also a very “flexible” food – it can be eaten plain, with extra butter, with kaya, with peanut butter, with jam, dunked in milo or coffee or tea. It can be made plain without any filling, or you can filled it with butter (most common and most well-liked), with “inti” (syrup shredded coconut), with ‘sambal ikan” (same as that you find in pulut lepa). And if your paong dough doesn’t rise, you can turn it into ‘paong chien” … fried paong!!! And believe me, this is even more yummy!

 

Pa-ong: Terengganu Sweet Breadroll (Source: Grandma’s recipe and perfected by mom)
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Ingredients
200g plain flour
60g sugar
1 egg
100ml water (room temp – NOT hot/ warm water)
1/8 tsp dried instant yeast

Method

Dissolve sugar in water. Add in yeast and egg. (Dont have to beat the egg). Just cracked it and stir it in with your fingers till well mixed. Leave it for about ½ hour for it to ‘bubble’. Slowly add flour and knead till the dough is soft and that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers. Leave the dough for a few hours, covered with a cloth.

Divide into 18-21 pieces and knead into small pieces. Knead using your fingertips till you see a “glossy” skin.

(When you want to knead individually, you should grease your finger lightly with butter/ margarine – helps so that dough doesn’t stick stick to the fingers). Wrap a small knob of frozen butter in the dough and close the end of the bun (almost like how you’d make ‘pao’ but upside down).

Generously grease the enamel–coated tray* with margarine/ butter and arrange the dough in circles in the round baking tray. Leave the dough to rise. Once the dough rises (about 6-8hrs later) bake in high heat (about 200-210C) for about 15 mins or till the bun is golden brown.


Note 1: Make sure you twist it tight before you turn it down and place it on the tray, or else the butter will leak out when baking. And also, do not push the butter too far deep into the center. When you overturn it, if it’s too near the top and the dough is too thin, the dough will break during baking and again leaking the butter out from the top.

Note 2: * this is prob one of the reason that gives ‘paong’ that tasty crunch!

Note 3: To ensure bottom of bun is also ‘brown’, I’d usually bake it on the bottom lowest (or 2nd lowest) rack in the oven and at the last 1-2 min, I’ll bring it up to the top most rack to allow the surface of the bun to brown

Today, grandma (my mom) to make it for my 2 girls whenever they ask for it. Although I’ve tried making this a few times under my mom’s guidance, it is still not as “perfect” as hers…. Will keep on trying!

My “virgin” post.

After procrastinating for more than a year, I finally decided to get down to it. I was prompted to start blogging my recipes when I participated in the Malaysian Food Fest – Terengganu event on Facebook more than a year ago by the food blogger who was hosting the event, but somehow never got around to do it.

Frankly, I have been wanting to do it even before that – with an ultimate objective: to find a “place” where I can keep all my recipes – all those hand-me-downs recipes from my mom and family (grandma, grandaunts, aunts and cousin’s recipes), those that I’ve cut and collected over the years, those I’ve exchanged with friends, and those I’ve learned from cooking/ baking classes.  Secondly, to share my recipes, cooking and baking experiences and stories with my friends.

I hope to regularly (at least once a month?) update this blog and share both KT (as in Kuala Terengganu’s food recipes) and also simple home-cooked meals as well as my bakes. So do drop in and please feel free to leave comments and feedback. So I will get on with posting of recipes this weekend once I have a little more time to learn more functionality and features of this blog page.

Meanwhile, I will keep this virgin post short sweet and simple … Until the next post, happy baking and cooking!