Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hawker Noodle Goodness

Char Kway Teow is a popular hawker food dish. ‘Char’ means stir-fry and ‘kway teow’ is rice noodles. The dish is basically rice noodles stir-fried with your choice of seafood, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, Chinese sausage and egg, with a soy sauce mixture and chilli paste with gives it its distinctive light brown colour, tinged with red from the chilli.


  • Fresh Rice Noodles

You can buy this from Asian groceries from the refrigerator section.

These noodles are already cooked but are stuck together. To separate the rice noodles you will need to zap them in the microwave (30-60 seconds) until they have softened enough to be separated with chopsticks or use your hands.

  • Chinese sausage (lap cheong)

You still need to precook the Chinese sausage by steaming it for 10 minutes and then slicing into thin diagonal pieces.

  • Chinese chives

  • Prawns, shelled/deveinedo
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Egg
  • Crushed garlic
  • Crab Meat
  • Peanut Oil
  • Dried red chillies
  • Fresh red Chillies
  • Shallot
  • Fish sauce
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Light soy sauce
  • Dark soy sauce
Recommended - Pearl River Bridge Brand of soy sauces.

Firstly, I prepared the chilli paste by pounding together 2 tablespoons of dried red chillies (pre-soaked until soft), 2 fresh red chillies, 3 small shallots and pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Heat some oil in a wok and fry the chilli paste continuously until aromatic and set aside.

Pre-mix the sauce in a bowl – 5 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 1 ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, ½ teaspoon salt and some ground white pepper.

Now to cooking the Char Kway Teow.

It is important when cooking this dish that you have wok hei, known as the ‘breath of the wok’. This means that the wok needs to be very hot and the noodles are fried quickly over the high heat which will give the noodles a special ‘charred’ aroma.

It is best to fry one serve of noodles at a time.

Heat wok over high heat until it starts to smoke, then add in some oil (around 2 tablespoons) and crushed garlic, and fry for a few seconds.

Add some prawns, fish cake and Chinese sausage into the wok and fry until the prawns start to turn pink.

Then add in the bean sprouts and rice noodles.

Stir fry everything together to combine and then add in some of the sauce mixture, and season with some salt and pepper to taste.

Push the noodles to one side and crack an egg into it. Use spatula to scramble the egg yolk and the egg white together. Then cover the eggs with the noodles, wait a few seconds and then stir fry all together.

Add in some of the chilli paste to desired spiciness.

Then add the chives and crab meat and stir fry until everything is combined.

Verdict: The char kway teow was delicious but I was missing some wok hei.

When I was looking for a place to move out last year, a deal breaker for me was whether or not the kitchen had a gas stove. When I saw an electric stove I would walk out of the rent inspection as I knew that I would find it hard to cook with an electric stove. Electric stoves do not produce the large amounts of quick even heat required for woks for stir frying. But my gas stove at home doesn’t provide the high intensity flames that is needed to produce wok hei.

(My gas stove at home)

To achieve wok hei, I need an industrial or charcoal stove used by restaurants which produce high temperature flames. When my dad cooks noodle dishes, he often cooks it at the restaurant and then brings it home as he would complain that he cannot get enough wok hei using the gas stove at home.

Wok hei -->

Baking Friands and Hazelnut Pinwheels

Baking in comparison to cooking is often viewed as science because you need to strictly follow a formula and use the exact measurements for the ingredients provided by recipes.

Cooking, on the other hand, has a wider scope for experimentation and is a lot more flexible in that you can add as much or as little of the ingredients as you wish to your desired tastes.

I think there is a lot of flexibility to experiment in baking and add or take different ingredients to obtain different flavours and textures as long as you have the basic foundations and the right ratio of the different required elements (ie: flour to eggs to sugar etc).

One thing that I love baking are friands.

On the weekend I made Raspberry and White Chocolate Friands with some Lemon Zest.


  • 125g raspberries
  • 185g butter
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ cup plain flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g white chocolate
  • finely grated zest of one lemon

  • Preheat over to 180 degree celcius and lightly grease friend pan with butter.
  • Melt the butter and white chocolate together, set aside.
  • Combine the dry ingredients - flour, icing sugar and almond meal into a bowl, and then grate in the lemon zest.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg whites together until it is frothy/forms soft peaks.
  • Fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Then fold in the butter/white chocolate mixture until just combined (Note: do note overmix).
  • Spoon the mixture into the friend pans 2/3 full and place a few berries in a cluster in the center of the each friend.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the friands are a light golden colour.

To make these friands I used a blueberry and white chocolate friand recipe that I had previously made and adapted it. Replacing the blueberries with raspberries and adding in some lemon zest.

What makes a friand a friand? The friand pan for starters – so you get the oval shape and star imprint on the bottom.

The core elements of a friand are egg whites, butter, almond meal and icing sugar.

You can change the recipe that I used in many ways to make different kinds of friands.

  • You don’t have to melt the chocolate with the butter, you can use chocolate chips and fold them in the batter.
  • You could make chocolate friands by using dark chocolate instead of white chocolate.
  • You can make orange friands by adding orange rind and also poppy seeds.
  • You could use hazelnut meal instead of almond meal.
  • You could add in some coffee or ground cinnamon or even some green tea powder.
The possibilities are endless….

Tip for melting butter and/or chocolate: I use one of those pots that you use to make pasta so that it doesn't burn.

I also made some Hazelnut Pinwheel biscuits

I got the recipe from Australian Women's Weekly


  • 1 1/4 cups ( 175g)
  • plain flour 100 g butter, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk,
  • approximately 1/3 cup (110 g) chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut meal


  • Process flour, butter and sugar until crumbly. Add egg yolk; process with enough milk until mixture forms a ball. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth; cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Roll dough between sheet of baking paper to form 20 cm x 30 cm rectangle; remove top sheet of paper. Spread dough evenly with hazelnut spread; sprinkle with hazelnut meal. Using paper as a guide, roll dough tighly from long side to enclose filling. Enclose roll in plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile; preheat oven to 180 C/ 160 C fan-forced. Grease oven trays; line with baking paper.
  • Remove plastic wrap; cut roll into 1 cm slices, place slices on trays 2 cm apart. Bake about 20 minutes. Stand pinwheels on trays 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chinese BBQ Meats

Chinese BBQ meats (sui mei) are tasty and you will see them hanging in the windows of Chinese restaurants which specialise in roasting these meats. The more popular Chinese BBQ meats are roast duck (siu ngaap) and barbecued pork (char sui). One of my favourite Chinese BBQ meats is ‘sui yuk’ which is roasted pork belly - the combination of five spice flavoured pork belly with salty and crispy skin is delicious, especially dipped in chilli oil.

The most important aspect of sui yuk is its crispy and crackling skin. Some of the ways to help create the crispy skin are:

  • keeping the skin dry;
  • scoring/pricking the skin;
  • rubbing coarse sea salt onto the skin; and
  • brushing white vinegar onto the skin.
I tried making my own sui yuk on the weekend. I bought a slab of pork belly from the butcher, cleaned it and poured boiling water slowly and evenly over the pork skin. I dried the skin with paper towels and left it to cool. The skin shrunk a bit and the sides of the pork meat became white and slightly cooked. I then scored the skin all over with a sharp knife and made lengthwise incisions into the meat side of the pork belly to help the marinade absorb into the meat.

I marinated the pork belly by mixing together the following ingredients until I got the desired taste and then rubbed it into the meat side of the pork belly:

  • Fermented red bean curd (3-4 pieces)
  • Chinese five spice powder (1 tablespoon)
  • Salt (1 tablespoon)
  • Sugar (1 tablespoon)
  • White pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Black pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Chinese rose wine (2 tablespoons)
  • Crushed garlic (1 tablespoon)
  • msg (1-2 teaspoon)
The amount of each ingredient depends on the amount of pork belly used (quantity on brackets are a rough guide for around 2kg of pork belly).

I turned the meat over, skin side up and made sure that it was clean and dry (none of the marinade should be on the skin of the pork). I rubbed coarse sea salt onto the skin and placed the slab of pork belly on a dish uncovered into the fridge to marinate overnight.

An hour before roasting I took the pork belly out of the fridge.

I put the pork into the oven preheated to 200 degrees celsius and roasted it for 20 minutes and then took the pork belly out and brushed the skin with white vinegar and roasted it for a further 20 minutes. Then I took the pork belly out again and checked the progress of the skin to see how crispy it was getting. There was some areas of the skin which where tender and unblistered so I used a fork to prick the skin to let the fat/oil escape and used paper towels to dab the skin to absorb the oozing liquid. I returned the pork belly to the oven and continued roasting for another 20 minutes, turning the grill function of the oven on to help increase the crackling and crisping of the skin.

After an hour of roasting the pork, I took it out of the oven and let it rest and cool down before chopping it into pieces.

The Verdict: The pork belly was juicy and tender and it had the right flavour but the skin could have been better, some parts crisped up really well but there was still areas that didn’t crisp up properly….and it was missing the ‘X’ factor…

The ‘X’ factor that it was missing for me was the particular roasted flavour/texture that you get with Chinese BBQ meats that you buy from restaurants. I attribute it to the ovens that restaurants use which would be specially designed for roasting Chinese BBQ meats like a rotisserie style oven and I can’t replicate this with my little oven at home. My oven at home does not have the ‘X’ factor.

If you want to buy Chinese BBQ meats with the ‘X’ factor, the best place to get Chinese BBQ meats in Perth is at ‘Hong Kong BBQ’ on 76 Francis Street in Northbridge.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and the best way to heat it up it to stir fry it with a little oil, finely diced shallots, crushed garlic and a good dash of oyster sauce.

Here are some of my other pork belly recipes:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vietnamese Baguette

The French colonisation of Vietnam has influenced the development of Vietnamese cuisine.

So France…what food does it make you think of?

Baguettes of course!

An example of the influence of the French on Vietnamese food is ‘Banh Mi’ which is a Vietnamese baguette commonly filled with ingredients such as pickled carrots, cucumbers, coriander, spring onion, chicken/pork liver pate, fresh cut chilli, garlic mayonnaise, thinly sliced pork belly and Vietnamese sausage.

Thus, Banh Mi has an infusion of French ingredients with the baguette, pate and mayonnaise, and Vietnamese style fillings and accompaniments like fresh herbs, pickled carrots and specially prepared meats.

The Vietnamese style baguette has a much crispier and firmer crust to provide a barrier for the moisture of the fillings and the inner part of the bread is light and fluffy so that it does not overwhelm the flavours of the sandwich and taste too bready.

You can buy Banh Mi from Asian groceries/supermarkets. Near the counter there is usually a selection of sweet and savoury snacks and sweets. These are generally prepared by people who work at home and then distribute their goods to groceries, which sell it on commission. A Banh Mi will usually cost you between $3.50-$4.50

But to get the best Banh Mi in Perth, you should go to ‘Ben Thanh’ at the Mirrabooka Village Shopping Centre. This is a little place dedicated to selling Banh Mi and also sells fresh sugar cane juice!

You get your Vietnamese baguette made fresh to order!

When you get your Banh Mi made fresh from Ben Thanh, after the fillings have being placed into the baguette, it will be popped into a grill for around 1 minute so that the baguette will be slightly warmed and is extra crunchy and crispy when you bite into it (warming: bread crumbs will fall everywhere and you will make a mess).

When you buy Banh Mi from an Asian grocery it will be cold and ok to eat. But if you take it home you can heat it up by putting it in the oven (no need to preheat the oven) and cook for around 10 minutes at 180 degrees celsius. The aim is to heat up the baguette to make the bread crispy and the fillings only need to be slightly warm.

Banh Mi is delicious…so please take a bite….


Related post - Searching for the best banh mi in Perth in Girrawheen

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