Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter cured meat (Step 1: Marinating the Meat)

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Winter cured meats is a specialty of south China.  Similar to many other parts of the world, curing meats was a way of naturally preserving the meat because there were no refrigerators in the past.  By curing the meat, it would preserve it for a longer period of time.  There are different ways of making winter-cured meats, some which involve smoking and heavily salting.

Winter cured meat is not limited to one type of meat.  In fact, it can be done with pork, chicken and fish.  My focus for this recipe is solely in winter cured pork.  This recipe relies on salting the meat using salt, soy sauce, and salted cooking wine, but relies on the cold dry winters to fully cure the meat.  As such, the success of this recipe is determined by the local weather (you need several cold and windy days in a row for the best results).  If you have a cold room, then you make this recipe year round!  I don't own a cold room so I therefore make a large batch each winter that will be sure to last me the whole year.  Winter cured meat stores extremely well - months of storage does not affect the test of the meat.

Making winter-cured meat does require some planning in advance, but your taste buds will thank you in the future!

You will need the following ingredients in the following proportions:
  • 1 lb slab of pork belly
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 5 tablespoons of Chinese White Cooking Wine (but you can substitute with other hard liquors such as brandy or whiskey.  I've used Canadian Club and Johnny Walker Black Label in the past)
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of DARK soy (NOTE: the teaspoon for the dark soy is the correct measurement)
  • 1 tablespoon of Salted Cooking Wine.

Marinating the meat:
  1. Place the pork belly into the freezer for an hour after you buy it.
  2. Slice the pork belly into long, boneless strips about a half-inch thick in width
  3. Prepare a sink of cold water and also boil a large pot of water at the same time.
  4. Place each strip of pork belly into the boiling water for about 2 minutes, remove, and place into the cold water bath.  You can leave the strips of meat in the cold water.
  5. Drain the cold water and place the strips of meat lengthwise in a casserole dish.  We can now begin the actual marinating process.
  6. Make a marinade by adding all of the above ingredients (the salt, sugar, wines, soy sauces) in a bowl and mix them together.
  7. Spoon the marinade over the meat, ensuring that each piece of meat is coated.  You should also turn over each piece of meat to ensure that alternate side is also evenly marinated.  Leave any excess marinade with the meat, do not discard it.  The goal is to let the meat absorb the marinade.
  8. Cover and place into a refrigerator for 2 days.  During this time, it would be even better if the meat can be "basted" with the marinade as it sits in the fridge.
Continue to Part 2 of this recipe:

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Lunar New Year Sweet Dumplings

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    For the recent Lunar New Year Celebrations, I feasted on the Lunar Sweet Dumplings. Around this time of the year, Asian Grocers will usually have tins of these dumplings available, but the homemade flavours are still the best in my opinion. This recipe is fairly time consuming due to the wrapping, but when giving these dumplings away, the recipient will be sure to appreciate the time and effort put into making them.

    The Filling:
    There isn't a right way to make the filling. I tend to prefer just mixing white sesame seeds with chunky peanut butter. Some people prefer to add in shredded coconut pieces as well. The key to the filling is to always taste it after you've mixed it.

    The Dough:
    • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons custard powder
    • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
    • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 4 tablespoons of melted butter
    • 16 Chinese soup spoons (the ceramic variety) COLD water - sorry for lack of a better measurement, but that's what it took.
    Mix all of the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead until everything has combined. The dough will tend to have a yellowish tinge to it.

    The Wrapping of the Dumplings:
    1. Rip a baseball size chunk of dough and roll it out into a thin sheet. Carve out circles of dough using a cutter that has a roughly 3-inch diameter.
    2. Spoon a little bit of the filling into the centre of the circle of dough
    3. Fold the circle of dough in half to form a half-moon shape
    4. Pinch the edges of the dough to close the dumpling
    5. From one side of the dumpling to the other, gently fold in and pinch the edges at a 45 degree angle to form a beautiful ribbon design.
    6. Make 3 or 4 of these dumplings and test them out on the deep fryer. This is essential ensuring that your dough is tough enough to withstand the frying. The last thing you need is a leaky dumpling.
    7. If your dumplings have survived and they taste great, then proceed to make a large batch to prepare for the festivities!

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Happy Lunar New Year of the Dragon

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    To all my blog readers, "Gung Hei Fat Choi"(恭喜發財). This is one of my favourite holidays because it's when families all get together and celebrate a new year. I wish for all of you the very best wishes of health, prosperity, and success in your various endeavors. For me, what makes this time very special is of course the feasting involved.

    This is going to be a very short posting on just how exactly the Lunar New Year Cake can be prepared for serving guests. Hopefully you all tried the recipe I first uploaded in 2010. If not, the recipe can be found here --> Lunar New Year Cake

    To cook, or rather, reheat to serve the cake:

    1. Slice the cake into 1cm thick slices and about the length and width of a credit card.
    2. Crack and beat a whole egg.
    3. Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat and oil lightly.
    4. Dip each slice of the Lunar Cake into the egg batter coat and then place directly onto the pan.
    5. Flip each piece over once the egg is cooked and some light browning has occured.
    6. Remove from the pan and serve once both sides of each slice is done heating up.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Stuffed Eggplant Dim Sum Style

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    There was a request from a reader for stuffed eggplant. This recipe can be found when going for dim sum at your favourite restaurant. Typically, this recipe is quickly fried in searing oil at a restaurant. I've decided to pan fry this instead as a healthier alternative.

    There are a couple of points to note with this recipe. First, I've only used the longer variety of eggplant because they end up being an appropriate size when serving. In the grocery store, eggplant may be called Aubergine. Secondly, although the recipe is similar to the Stuffed Hot Peppers recipe, notice that the stuffing in this case is made from a mixture of pork and fish paste. After experimenting I found that this combination provided the texture I was looking for.

    To make the Stuffed Eggplants, I used the following:
    • 2 to 3 Eggplants (long variety) - wash and peel off strips of skin as shown
    • Fish paste
    • Ground pork in equal parts to the the fish paste
    • Green onion (for colour)
    • Several dried prawns
    • Cornstarch - as a binding agent and sauce thickener
    To make the Stuffed Eggplants:
    1. Peel strips off the eggplant, then slice them diagonally at roughly a 45 degree angle. For the first slice, go through all the way, and then 1 cm (centimetre) away, make a slice 3/4 of the way through. Then another 1 cm away, make another slice all the way through. In other words, every other cut will be only 3/4 of the way through. What we are doing is making an opening in which to stuff the Eggplants. NOTE: By not cutting all the way through, we are ensuring that the filling will not slip out the way a hamburger patty sometimes slides out as we are biting into a burger.
    2. Place the slices of eggplant in a sink of cold water. This will help in the cooking process as well as delaying any browning of the eggplant before cooking.
    3. Prepare the filling by chopping the green onion and dried prawn finely. Mix equal parts of fish paste and the ground pork BY HAND. If a machine mixer is used, the texture of the fish paste will be altered due to over-mixing.
    4. Set up your eggplant filling station by having a small amount of cornstarch ready in a bowl. Use a butter knife and spread a thin coating of cornstarch to the upper and lower surfaces inside the eggplant.
    5. Scoop a small amount of filling and slightly overfill the pocket as shown. During the cooking process, the filling will shrink to an appropriate size. Hopefully you can appreciate how easy it is to fill the pocket since we didn't cut all the way through the eggplant earlier.
    6. Once you've filled all the eggplant slices, you can get ready to cook them. If you have left over filling, don't worry, I have some ideas at the end of this recipe for you.
    7. Heat up a pan on medium high heat and oil lightly. Place the eggplants down on one side and cover the pan. Depending on the thickness of the cut and the ripeness of the eggplant, the cooking process may take 5 -7 minutes on each side to cook.
    8. Once the eggplants are brown and fully cooked, make a sauce by mixing in a small bowl 1/4 tsp of cornstarch, a small amount of water, 1/4 tsp sugar, and soy sauce. Add the sauce to the pan and let it thicken. If you would like, you can add a dash of rum to the pan as well.

    As I promised, if you're wondering what to do with the left over filling, flatten it to a pancake and cook it on the pan. After cooking the filling, you can:
    1. Use it instead of cold cuts in a sandwich
    2. Slice it and top a salad
    3. Slice it and stir fry it with whatever else you have in your refrigerator!