Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Trafford Centre Food Court

Located near Manchester United's stadium is the UK's largest shopping mall, The Trafford Centre. As you would expect from any mall of this size, it is complete with shopping, entertainment and dining facilities. We live about 20 minutes walk fromthe centre and this was what we had last week at it's food court.

Harry Ramsden's is a world famous chain of Fish and Chips outlet and in my opinion, also serve the best battered fish you will find anywhere. My son had the fish bites meal, which consisted of little chunks of whole (not chopped) fish. Batter was light and crunchy and so were the chips.

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I had a Karahi Lamb curry from Shere Khan, another popular restaurant name in the UK, mainly in the north. However, this curry was from a large pot and not made to order, so it tasted just ok rather than exceptional. At £5.50 per portion with rice and drink, it's cheap enough and worth the price.

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Friday, 25 January 2008

Char Siu, revisited (Chinese Barbeque Pork)

Here is a dish I have blogged about before. However, I felt I had to do it again because, like all amateur cooks, my dishes do not come out identical evertime I prepare them. On this occassion, it turned out really well, in taste as well as appearance. The reason is because I bought belly pork (the kind used in crispy roast pork - siu yoke) instead of tenderloin or shoulder/neck steak. The big difference is the amount of fat in belly pork and I also made too much marinade for this lot. As a result, it had a stronger taste and the fatty bits made some parts crispy and charred with that "melt in your mouth" texture as you bite into it. I dont usually use belly as its rather unhealthy, but find that it's the best cut if you want your char siu "pun fei sow" (half fat, half lean).

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I am still a complete novice when it comes to food photography and presentation, but I am learning a lot by looking other people's food blogs. Can anyone tell me how to capture a photo where the object in front is clear, but all behind is blurred? I'm afraid I have only used the auto feature of my camera. When I select manual, everything is blurred!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Chow Kuey Teow

With most raw ingredients widely available locally, I make this dish quite frequently. However, it of course cannot compare with what you get in Malaysia, even the very worst ones :-(( . However, I believe I have theoretically worked out exactly how it can be done perfectly, but unfortunatley, circumstances does not permit it in the UK.

The things I lack:
- a cooker hot enough to achieve "wok hei"

- the right kind of ho fun noodles. Quality CKT requires thin, yet firm, fresh ho fun. The two fresh varieties available in Manchester are quite thick.- blood clams or "see hum"

- chinese chives. You can buy this in Manchester, but seems a waste to buy a 100g bunch just for a small dish of CKT.

The things that I can do, but don't:
- use lard. I usually have none available and making crispy pork fat bits are unhealthy.

- use chilli - because my family does not like it spicy.

- I don't use a wok, but a non-stick flat pan so as to not use too much oil. The raw ho fun itself is already very oily.

- Use of chopped preserved veg in the browning process. I'm afraid I don't know what veg it is they use, although I am sure it is available in Chinatown!

Here is the ho fun. It is bought folded up in a pack, like the cheong fun below, made by the same manufacturer. I immerse it in hot water to loosen and soften it.
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The ingredients are garlic, squid, chinese sausage, prawns, fish cake and beansprouts (not pictured).
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The sauces are sweet soy (blended with a little bit of the sauces pictured below .. only a LITTLE BIT!) and light soy.
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And in the pan, only a tiny bit of vegetable oil to brown the garlic before putting in the noodles.
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And the final product!

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Saturday, 19 January 2008

An essential kitchen item!

If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it is important to have the correct ambience to keep up your inspiration to produce that next culinary masterpiece. For me, music is a major factor in creating an ambience and this is my favourite equipment in my kitchen!

It is a Wi-Fi Internet Radio.
If you have ever listened to radio via the internet, you will know how it works. It is simply standalone computer that does nothing but streams radio from the internet. There are thousands of stations available worldwide, catering for every genre you can possible think of, or may not even know exist. There are over 9000 stations, increasing daily, and over 200 playing my favourite 80s music alone! It is not country specific and the only requirement is that you have a wireless internet router for it to pick up the signal from.

If you're like me, not interested in what you get on conventional local radio stations, this is the answer! I bought this for only UKP50.

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Chee Cheong Fun

It is possible to have this dish in the UK too! Ok, so you cannot buy the Malaysian style ccf dish in restaurants - just the Hong Kong style. However, the noodles itself are readily available in all UK Chinatowns and all I had to do was to steam it and make my own sauce.

In Manchester, we even have our locally made ones! Look at the address of the factory on the packet!

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I then simply steam it.

And then add the sauce, a mixture of fried garlic oil, Hoi Sin sauce, sugar, light soy, sesame oil and chilli sauce straight from the bottle (eg. Maggi's). If I wanted the sauce to be thick, unlike in the picture, I just add cornstarch. No sesame seeds in mine as I dont having to pick them out of my teeth afterwards!I have not come across a really good recipe for the sweet ccf sauce, so if anyone reading this has one to share, I would really appreciate it!

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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Fish, Veg and Soup, Malaysian style.

To live up to this website's name, I guess I should blog about something actually Malaysian. So I will show how I made a very basic staple Malaysian meal of fish, veg and soup.

For the soup, I just boiled some pork bones which I trimmed off the shoulder steaks which I marinated for Char Siew the next day. After an hour, I added potatoes, carrots, onions, and later on, tomatoes. Only salt, sugar and pepper is needed later on for taste.

For the fish, I use filleted mackerel. This is the closest you get to "ikan kembung" in the UK, which is my favourite fish in Malaysia. I could have cooked the fish whole, but wife and son do not like small bones in fish! For the veg, I bought freshly air-freighted kangkung (water spinach) from Thailand. Outside the winter months, you can actually buy Dutch kangkung here, but they are too thick for my liking.

I simply fry the fish in a non-stick pan. The fish will shed a lot of oil while frying, so there is no need to use too much in the beginning. I continue to fry the skin side in its own oil till it's crispy. Then turn it over and just lightly brown the flesh side. For the veg, I use my own sambal belachan (prawn chilli paste), where all the ingredients are readily available here.

Finally, I garnish both with fried garlic, ginger and shallots.

And dinner is served!
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Sunday, 13 January 2008

Dim Sum Lunch in Manchester Chinatown

We treated ourselves to a dim sum lunch at the Hong Kong Restaurant in Manchester's Chinatown this weekend. We had originally went to Tai-Pan just outside the city but laft when we found that thy no longer do half-price Dim Sums on a Saturday afternoon. It seems only the Hong Kong still does it on a Saturday afternoon. About two years ago, there must have been about 5 restaurants in Manchester that has this offer. Maybe it has become too popular. :(

This Char Siu Cheong Fun looked lovely, but unfortunately, the Char Siu was not too fresh and the cheong fun was not as soft as I would have wanted.

Fung jow jung jai fan (chicken claws with rice). This was actually rather nice and very well presented. The claws were nice and succulent and not too soft as to break off as soon as you pick them up. They were the hottest (spiciest) fung jow I ever had though. Must have gone a bit overboard with the chillies!

The har gok was rather nice too. It had chunks of large prawns in them.

The char siu pau was rather average. Maybe its because we left it a long time before we ate them and they had gotton cold by then. Like the cheong fun, the char siu here was also not very fresh, which affected the taste.

Sang chow lor mai. Fried glutinous rice. I dont think many Manchester restaurants do this dish. When I previously had it at this restaurant, it was quite nice. However, like some other dishes before it, the less than fresh char-siu spoilt the taste slightly.

Absolutely no complaints about this jew pai chow meen (special fried noodles). I'm afraid we had already tucked into it before I had a chance to take the photo. It had large prawns, pork slices, siew yuk, fish cake, fish balls, choi sum, pigs maw and squid in it. Noodles and sauce were cooked to perfection!

This whole lot only came to £18, inc Chinese tea.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Chicken Sate Hong Kong Style

This dish should not be confused with the Satay that we get in Malaysia. It is a completely different dish that is served in almost all the Chinese Restaurants and Takeaways in the UK. As I have never been to Hong Kong, I would go as far as to say that this is an Anglicised Chinese dish that you will probably not get outside the UK, but I have grown to love it nevertheless.

The base of the dish is Jimmy's Sate Sauce. This sauce has a very unique taste and is not at all a variation of the Malaysian peanut sauce. In fact, it is made mainly from fermented soya beans rather than peanuts. However, it is not exactly hot bean (tauchu?) sauce either!

I mix the sauce with peanut butter before using it in the dish.

I then simply gather the "usual" stir fry ingredients together, chicken, garlic, onions and pepper.

In addition to the sauce mix, I add stock and cornstarch.

And finally, the dish itself!

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I would highly recommend you try this dish, wherever in the world you may be. It is extremely simple to make and had a really unique taste. Like a cross between hot bean sauce and mild curry. However, you must use Jimmy's Sate sauce to make it or it will not taste the same.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Not available in the UK!!

A previous comment prompted me to write about something different today. Food we take for granted in Malaysia, but near impossible to get in the UK. I don't mean food you can at least try to reproduce yourself, but drinks, confectionery, and "raw materials" for meals. If you have not lived in the UK, you may be surprised at some of items listed below!

A&W DRAFT Root Beer
We can get the canned version in Chinese supermarkets, but with no A&W outlets in the UK, I really miss the draft version of the drink. The handful of A&W restaurants opened in 2005-2006 have all been absorbed into its sister franchise KFC and no longer serve Root Beer as there is not enough demand for it.

Kjeldsens Danish Butter Cookies
We can get loads of other brands of Danish Butter Cookies but nothing compares to Kjeldsens. I have NEVER seen this on sale in the UK at all. However, I believe that Marks & Spencer used to sell them under their own label in the 1980s, but no longer.

Arnott's biscuits.
I absolutely love their savoury Australian biscuits. A few years ago, they did try to break into the UK market but failed. For a few months after that, I could buy their unpopular biscuits in bargain bin really cheaply. Then they disappeared from the UK market altogether.

Kraft's Miracle Whip
Although Kraft has a major UK presence, this American product is not. Like Arnott's, they tried to market this product in the UK in 2005 and it all ended up in bargain bins before disappearing altogether.

Another popular Australian brand. Never had it in the UK. Never even seen it in Chinese supermarkets.

Popular American brand of sweets that never ever made it here.

"Long Yuk" - Barbeque chinese meat slices.
Again, impossible to get here, not even frozen or packaged. I can get the meat floss in Chinese supermarkets though.

KL Hokkien Mee
Although it is possible to cook it here, you cannot buy the same type of noodles, so an identical dish is not possible.

"See Hum" - Blood Clams
In the 1980s, you could buy then shelled and frozen. You could also buy the Yeo's curried version in a can. Now, it is no longer available anywhere. I wonder if it has been banned, like in China.

The list goes on... I may do a part 2 of this list some time in the future.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Char Siu with Hainan Chicken Rice

I cook have this dish about once a week. It is not labour intensive at all and you cannot buy an identical meal from a restaurant or takeaway in Manchester. For the Char Siu, I actually make it from scratch as I do not like the Hong Kong style red Char Siu you get from restaurants in the UK. I usually attempt to make the type of sweet dark Char Siu, like the ones I get back in Malaysia.

The marinade consists of Hoi Sin sauce, lemon juice 5 spice powder, salt, dark soy sauce and a large amount of honey to make it sweet.

I use shoulder steaks as they are nicely marbled with adequate but not too much fat. The thickness of the steak is VERY important as it will determine how dry or succulent your result is. The thickness of the steak will depend on how hot the grill is. I cook them on high heat, turning them over frequently until the outside is slightly charred but the inside is just cooked, but not overcooked.

During the cooking process, I scoop up the juice as a base for my sauce.

I simply mix it with sugar, water and soy sauce for a nice sweet sauce for the meat and rice.

And finally, the Char Siu! As with all roast / grilled meat, you should not cut it immediately or all the juice will leak out leaving it dry. Let it cool and the juice absorbed back evenly into the meat first (about 30 mins).

As for the rice, obviously I am unable to make it from scratch as I have no chicken in my meal to make the stock. So I take the simple solution and use the best readymade cooking sauce I can find. This sauce has a strong garlic taste, so I use a lot less than the recommeded amount.

I only need a heaped teaspoonful for 3 medium servings of rice.

I add some salt to taste, but most importantly, half a blade of pandan (screwpine) leaf, to give it that authentic fragrant. I can buy this easily in Manchester - about 60p for a dozen blades.

And here is the final result - Hainan Chicken Rice with Char Siu!

In future, I will write about how I make Hainan Chicken Rice from scratch, when I make a poached chicken (pak cham kei).