Asian Dishes, Japanese/Korean

Easy Japanese Bowl

Even though it finally rained here today, it’s still super hot immediately after the rain is over. It’s been so so hot so I have no energy to cook.

But the family needs lunch. And so the easiest thing to cook is really a Japanese bowl.

Pretty, no?

All I needed to do was:

1. Make the tamagotchi from scratch

2. Use bottled teriyaki sauce on the salmon belly

3. Use leftover ingredients like pickled carrots from when I made banh mi and freshly cut cucumbers

4. Make an easy miso soup using packaged dashi soup stock and dried seaweed with leftover fishballs/mushroom balls from when I made yong tau foo (Singapore/Malaysian dish. I’ll share this one day)

5. Tomago. Bottled purchased from a supermarket

The rest is all about assembling.

Those dumplings were frozen bought from a supermarket and just fried and steamed.

A simple Japanese affair on a weekend. Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Asian Dishes, Malay, Salads and Vegetables, Singapore

Nasi Jenganan (Rice with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce)

I love nasi jenganan. It’s a dish which originated in Indonesia but much loved by the Malays here. Nasi means rice but I have no idea what jenganan means. Let me google this later. Is it a person’s name? The name of a place? When I was younger, I remember mispronouncing it as ‘jeng-ga-nan’

My late Papa used to love this dish so much. What is there not to like? Well, I guess if you loathe vegetables then this is not your cup of tea. However, what makes this rice dish so utterly addictive and unctuous is the rich fragrant peanut sauce.

All this time, I have been buying store bought jenganan sauce. It comes in packets and all you have to do is mix it with warm or hot water, and voila! You peanut sauce is ready. But this time, I thought it’s about time I learn to make this peanut sauce myself.

It starts off simple enough. Dry fry 300g of groundnuts till it’s completely toasted. Then grind them to a fine but not too fine texture. Like sand. Soft coarse sand.

And then in the same pan, dry fry about 8-10 dried chillies and 2-3 cloves of garlic in a little bit of oil. The chillies should be crisp and completely fried and hardened. The garlic cloves, browned.

And then in a blender, place the dried chillies and garlic in. Pour about half of the ground peanuts in and then some water, palm sugar, 1/2 a tablespoon of tamarind paste and salt to taste. Blend till all combined. Taste to adjust seasoning. Do you need more sugar? More tamarind paste? The taste should be slightly tangy, spicy and sweet. If you have cekur, or sand ginger, you should blend that in as well, but alas I didn’t have any. The sand ginger is what elevates this sauce from a simple peanut sauce to an AWESOME one. Unfortunately, I did not have any and in my area, there’re no shops selling this. Once you’re happy with the taste, put all the remaining groundnuts in and blend again to combine. Alternatively, you can just place the blended ones in a large bowl and stir the remaining ground peanuts in. If it’s too thick, adjust with a little bit of water at a time till you get a smooth consistency.

This peanut sauce is awesome but what makes this dish nasi jenganan is the accompaniments. You need a variety of vegetables, and in this region, cheap and delicious ones that go with this dish include kang kong, cabbage, long beans, bean sprouts. These four vegetables need to be blanched quickly in boiling water. And then since this is essentially a cheap dish, the proteins include fried tofu and fried tempe. Hey, this is the Malay version of a complete vegetarian and vegan dish!

First step: dry roast the groundnuts
Put them in a chopper and grind away.
The texture of coarse sand.
Fry dried chillies and garlic in some oil.
In a tall blender, add the chillies, garlic, peanuts, palm sugar, salt, sugar, tamarind paste, water. If you can get your hands on some sand ginger, add those in!
Blend away till well combined. Add the remaining ground peanuts and blend all again.
And you should come to this.
Serve with white rice, an assortment of boiled vegetables and fried tofu and tempe. This makes for a wonderful healthy lunch. And completely vegan too!

I can understand why my late father loved this dish. When he was alive, he would get very excited and happy when my mother cooked this dish. And she would make sure at least once a month, this would be on the menu. It actually pairs well with fish singgang, quite similar to the Filipino fish sinigang. Can you imagine eating this rich peanuty rice dish, crunchy vegetables and then sipping on some sourish fish soup together?

I’m glad I finally have learnt how to make this myself and that since this blog really is meant for my children to learn how to cook the dishes I grew up with, one day when I am gone and they are interested to read this blog, they will learn too how to make it themselves, or at least learn what their mother used to eat and like.

I am very sure whichever part of the world you’re in, these are easily available ingredients (except for the sand ginger, which I myself can’t get here!) and that making this peanut sauce the authentic way instead of using peanut butter will be more fulfilling.

Asian Dishes, Malay, Meat, Singapore

William Wongso’s Beef Rendang

Usually during Eid/Hari Raya, Malay homes will be resplendent with the aroma of rich spices of festive cooking. And for many homes here, beef rendang is a traditional festive dish.

While I did make this last week for Eid/Hari Raya, my obsession with finding the perfect beef rendang continues. And I am obsessed with trying out William Wongso’s recipe and technique.

William Wongso is legendary in the Indonesian world of beef rendangs. I believe he took this humble dish to the West, or rather popularised it. His method is crazy! Simmering the beef rendang for 8 hours in order to get that rich caramelised flavour. Though, in a video I watched on YouTube, he did concede one can use an oven too.

Beef rendang originated in the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are many variations of it, and I know I’ve posted several versions of this dish. I usually make this in a pressure cooker because it’s fast and the flavours get retained. But I thought, I should try Willy Wongso’s way.

His rempah, or spice paste is mild. I used the recipe from this Jakarta Post site

Instead of using fresh coconut, I used the packet cream ones. Since the cream ones are thicker, I used 900g of cream coconut, added about 100ml of water and then the spice paste. I added the beef and then the aromatics i.e. lemongrass, turmeric leaves, kaffir lime leaves. And then I added on asam keping, tamarind fruit. Added salt and then I placed it in the oven for 1.5 hours.

Now, after that, I thought it’d be done but I was wrong! Even though I had placed it in the oven for 1.5 hours at 200 Celcius, when I took it out, the mixture was still yellow.

So I continued cooking on the stove top for another 3 hours! Yes! That’s how long it takes to cook rendang!

Here are the steps, and if you want to try this, use tenderloin (it was too expensive for me, so I use chuck) and make sure you remove the lemongrass after a while. I made the mistake of stirring the lemongrass while waiting for the rendang to caramelise, which resulted in many small pieces of lemongrass spikes. It took me ages to pull all of them out of the mixture!

The first step is to blend the spice paste till fine.
The next step is to take a heavy bottom pot or Dutch Oven and pour in your coconut cream.
Add the beef cubes, aromatics and season with salt and sugar. Add also the tamarind piece.
Put the pot in the oven at 200Celcius for more than my 1.5 hours. Maybe three should do the trick? If it’s still wet, continue slaving over the pot, making sure to stir constantly so the mixture doesn’t burn. Oh, and remove the lemongrass!!
It will slowly get darker. But this is still not ready yet! Continue cooking until you see oil coming out from the mixture.
Like this….this is when you can say it’s ready. Though, I wonder if I continue stirring, will it get darker? I wanted a very dark rendang, but maybe it’s got to do with the spice mixture too. I will try another recipe one day again.
It was indeed delicious! No doubt about that. There really isn’t nothing much to not like about rendang. It’s super flavourful, and the meat tender but still retained that bite.
I kept one container full for lunch today while took a plate of rendang to try. By the time this was done, it was close to midnight so it became my midnight snack!

And there I have done it. Slow cooking rendang without frying the rempah first but cooking the rempah in the coconut cream till caramelised. If you want to be adventurous and have lots of patience and time on your hands, I highly recommend trying to make this. It is after all voted as one of the top 50 foods to try by CNN.

Asian Dishes, Poultry, Singapore

Devil’s Curry

I first learnt this dish from my maternal aunt who had learnt it from her mother in law. It’s very hot but not in your mouth hot. The heat gets to you from the inside. Very visceral and if you follow the traditional Eurasian recipe, you will then put in all the leftover viscera into the dish.

What makes this different from the usual Southeast Asian curries is the liberal use of mustard seeds in the rempah (spice paste). And what makes this special in this region is also that it’s a dish the Eurasian usually cook for Christmas. And since my aunt had learnt it form her mother in law who grew up in a Christian family then, this makes it the most authentic recipe I can get from a family member.

With any sort of Malay or SEA cooking, there must be the rempah. Here I have 2 onions, a knob of ginger, a knob of fresh turmeric, 8 fresh red chillies, 7 candlenuts, a tablespoon of mustard seeds and about a cup of blended dried chilli paste mixture (dried chillies, garlic, onion). Blend all the above in a blender till very smooth.
As I’ve been making videos, I realise I forgot to take pictures too for the blog. But here is the first process. Fry an additional one tablespoon of mustard seeds in hot oil first and then add sliced onions. Here I just used leftover cubes white onions. Waste not want not. The thing about cooking Asian is that it’s always very forgiving. When the onions have softened add the blended mixture and let that mixture cook over slow fire. You’ve got to constantly mix it and even cover it because boy does it splatter!
And when the spice paste is ready (the oil will rise from the mixture and you can smell that the paste is cooked), it’s time to add the chicken pieces (which I’ve only lightly marinated in light soy sauce and browned) and potatoes. Cover with enough water and let it cook till tender.
After which, add sausages. I added beef frankfurters here. And lastly cauliflower florets.

The seasoning which makes this dish different is vinegar! Yes! Distilled white vinegar. I used about 10 tablespoons in total after constantly tasting till I get the right balance. Salt and sugar of course too.

For garnish I added red bird’s eye chillies. The very brave will actually eat that too!
And here it is. Devil’s Curry. So hot it really is devilish.
Asian Dishes, Malay, Seafood

Sotong Masak Hitam (Squid in Black Ink Sauce)

So I finally learned how to make this popular Malay dish. It’s a family favourite dish in most households and I always wondered why, growing up as a child, my non-Malay friends would ask about the black colour of the dish when they see it sold at Malay stalls. Fast forward to a young adult me, I kept quiet when so many of these hipster kids laud approval at the Italian squid ink pasta. Same same, no? 😏

I realise also that besides this being so simple to make (well, once you get all the spice mix blended), that squid in my market is so expensive! Good thing squid is high in cholesterol so I won’t be buying this often!

As with a lot of Malay cooking, the first step is the spice mix or blended ingredients. Here, I have my blended dried chillies, blended onions, blended garlic, blended ginger and I used turmeric powder because I was too impatient to make the entire thing from scratch. Fry the blended paste in oil with two bruised lemongrass till the oil rises. Slow and steady cooking – don’t burn the mixture!
These are the ink sacs from the squid. As you’re cleaning the squid, carefully remove the ink sacs and set aside
Once the chilli and friends mixture has fully cooked, add the squid rings and cover. The squid will release a lot of moisture which will form your gravy later.
When the squid is cooked and very tender, add the ink sacs. Immediately, you’ll see the dish turning black. I added a kaffir lime leaf earlier too. Also, add about half a tablespoon of tamarind paste, and then salt to season.
Lastly, add tomato wedges and slit whole green chillies for some colour contrast. It’s very delicious eaten with jasmine white rice. Try this dish if you’re feeling adventurous!

Recipe

Blended Ingredients:

1. 10-15 dried chillies, soaked

2. 2 Bombay onions

3. An inch of ginger

4. 3 cloves garlic

5. An inch of turmeric (use powder if fresh is not available)

Others:

6. 2 lemongrass, bruised

7. Kaffir lime leaves

8. Tamarind paste

9. Salt to taste

10. Green chillies and tomatoes for garnish

Main star:

11. Fresh squid, cut into rings

Method:

1. Add sufficient oil in a pot and throw in the lemongrass

2. Add in the blended paste and fry till the oil surfaces (mixture must be cooked. Smell to ensure no raw smell of the chillies)

3. Add squid rings. Add kaffir lime leaves. Cover and cook squid.

4. Add squid ink sacs

5. Add tamarind paste, season with salt to taste

6. Add the green chillies and tomato wedges