Monday, August 25, 2008

Green Papaya & Snow Fungus Dessert

Fruits, especially local fruits like bananas, papayas, dragon fruits (my favourite is the deep ruby red variety) are cheap and plentiful in Banting. That's where I was last week. I went home to visit my parents for a few days and decided to teach my mom a new dessert recipe.

I bought an unripe papaya at the Banting Sunday market. My mom chided me saying that it's not palatable. I told her I was going to cook it, instead of waiting for it to ripen.

The fruit vendor was smart enough to tell my mom that she knew what I was going to do with the unripe fruit. Hmmm!

After I made it, mom took some over to our longtime neighbour, Mrs Chan. Mom told me the unripe papaya tasted a lot like sweet potato after it's been simmered.

So here's a green papaya and snow fungus dessert recipe you can try:

1 unripe papaya (a bit green with blushes of orange, signs of going to ripen), cut into bite size chunks
8-10 dried red dates
a few pieces of snow fungus, soaked and cut up into smaller pieces
rock sugar to taste
1 litre water

Into a pot, bring to boil water. Add papaya chunks and red dates. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add rock sugar and snow fungus. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve warm.

A quick and easy dessert you can whip up any time!

This dessert soup is for smooth and clear complexion. Papaya has lots of nutrients while snow fungus nourishes the lungs.

Soups and Desserts and Dragon Too

I haven't gone missing though I've been quite busy. I was in and out of Penang and doing stuff I wouldn't normally do.

You can see what I was busy about if you read this - which is over at my regular blog.

Anyway, I am back in Penang already. And super excited because I bought myself a new recipe book on Chinese soups (Cooking with Chinese Herbs: New Edition with 20 Additiional Recipes) by Terry Tan for RM60, a book which I'd been eyeing greedily this year. *grinning like a Cheshire cat*

I am glad I waited because I won a book voucher from Popular Bookstore recently and I used that voucher to redeem this book. Did this yesterday when I was on a book browsing spree at Popular Midlands (they're having a book sale of up to 20%). I said spree because I spent close to RM200 buying books and magazines.

Now Terry Tan is not a new author. I'd seen his books before and one of his recipe books was published in 1983! Now that's what I call a long time cook and author. This new recipe book is a rework of some older book with an additional 20 recipes.

What I particularly liked about Terry's cookbook is his book is well organised. I like organised minds because I'm fastidious too. I don't like messy recipe books where the recipes have no particular order!

Terry groups this Chinese soups into various categories such as one-pot meals, sweet soups, etc. This would definitely help me decide what soup to create on any given day.

I would be testing out a few of his soups as the instructions are simple, clear and there's at most 4 to 5 ingredients for each soup. His personality shone through too in this cookbook - unlike some dry textbook recipe copy which doesn't inspire one at all.

Speaking of soups and sweet soups, I was in Pavilion KL's Dragon-i Restaurant with my parents and aunt for lunch last week. For those who don't know, Dragon-i is a chain of sumptuous Shanghainese restaurants started in 2004 by a smart Singaporean woman. Only 4 years but what a runaway success.

The decor is in dark red and brown with lots of mirrors and subdued lighting. It's classy and sensual. They probably made kitchen work sexy too judging by the crowds who peer into the glass kitchen, watching chefs in action, making pau and tiny dim sum! I wonder if these chefs feel like animals in a zoo!

It occurred to me that we have a Dragon-i here in Queensbay Penang but I was never tempted to go try its famous 'xiao long pau' (steamed meat dumplings). Maybe I got scared of the crowds outside the restaurant. People lined up outside the restaurant to get into Dragon-i here in Penang. The thing with me is, I get freaked out if I see crowds. I won't go where the masses go because it will be noisy and dining can be chaotic.

Anyway, their xiao long pau is indeed the most heavenly stuff money can buy. But that's not it... we ordered dessert soups right after we had our meal and those where really what I enjoyed, sweet though they were! (My Dad who is now extremely careful about the amount of sugar and sodium he consumes, asked the waitress to add more water to his sweet hasma dessert. It was THAT sweet.) I had the same dessert and yes, it was terribly sweet! The hasma came in generous portion though.At RM 12, it sure beat making this dessert on your own at home. Hasma comes from snow frogs and one has to pick out the grit and stuff from the hasma (shuet kap in Cantonese), aka cleaned properly before it can be double-boiled.

My aunt had a lovely stewed pear with bitter and sweet almonds, while Mom tried the water chestnut and sea coconut dessert.


I'll be back soon with an easy papaya snow fungus dessert which I made for my mum the week that I was back home in Banting.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Kachama Chicken, A Confinement Dish for Sarawakians

Just got back from one week in Kuching. It was warm over there which is unusual as I always expect rain in Borneo. When it rains in Kuching, it pours.

I go back to Kuching for 1 reason - to visit my parents-in-law. So I take it as a break from work. But the thing that gets me truly antsy is that we just have dial-up internet access in his parents' home. Which is horrible. After years on broadband, getting to dial-up is torture.

I don't cook when I get to my mom-in-law's. She likes cooking and she has a particular way of cooking to accommodate my father-in-law. I tried once but my efforts were rebuffed. So the SoupQueen gets a total break from the kitchen when she's in Kuching.

Anyway, enough of gossip stuff. In the spirit of Sarawak, I am going to teach you how to cook 'kachama' or 'kachangma'. It's a wild grass or herb that's used famously in Sarawak for mothers who are in confinement / just given birth. This dish helps get rid of wind.

As with most confinement dishes (we Chinese are good at this sort of dishes because I've been told that a good confinement or rest for the new mother prevents later health problems... later as in when a woman is in her 50s or 60s), this one contains ginger to alleviate wind too.

On a personal note, I've a friend who dislikes Chinese herbs (despite being Chinese). Ever since she gave birth 2 years ago, she has been suffering chills, incontinence and weakness. I advised her to take some Chinese ginseng tonic or at least drink a nightcap of Benedictine DOM (another must drink for Chinese moms) but she steadfastly refuses to.

Instead she relies on her vitamins. Sure, vitamins are good but I believe she needs to strengthen her body with herbs such as dang gui and ginseng. But she stubbornly refuses. If I weren't a friend, I'd tell her off sharply that all her health problems now are caused by NOT having a proper confinement with the proper confinement foods.

For this kachangma dish, you will need:

1/2 cup of dried kachangma
2 chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon of pounded young ginger (squeeze and retain ginger juice)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
cooking oil
2-3 cups water

* As with all confinement foods, ginger and sesame oil are musts.

1. In a dry pan (no oil please), dry fry the kachangma for 2 minutes over a low fire.

Scoop into a mortar and pestle and pound lightly. Set aside.

2. Heat up pan, add 1 tablespoon cooking oil and sesame oil. Slowly fry the pounded ginger.
3. Add chicken pieces.
4. Add in the pounded kachangma. Coat evenly.
5. Pour in ginger juice (which you squeezed out earlier).
6. Add water to cover chicken pieces. Cover pan and simmer until chicken is tender.
7. Dish out and serve with a dark soya sauce.

Now in this dish, no salt is used as you will be dipping the chicken into dark soya sauce (try Lee Kum Kee Dark Soya Sauce for extra bite). This dish has a bit of gravy too so don't simmer the chicken too long.

It seems to taste better if you leave it overnight in the fridge.

Kachangma is widely available in Sarawak, sold as dried and chopped in packets. They are cheap at RM2.00 per packet.