Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bun Susie Revisited

Chef Daniel Tay, like many of us, learned life’s lessons the hard way as a go-getting young businessman. He was born and raised in the baker’s kitchen; in fact, for many years, Chef Tay’s father owned a well-known neighbourhood bakery, the Seng Choon Confectionery, at Marine Parade.

Tay Senior learned the ropes of the trade through the people he employed after setting up his shop, eventually mastering the skills and techniques required to become a baker and a businessman. Chef Tay later took over his father’s business, but lost it due to his youthful inexperience.

Apple Pies
This setback spurred him to pack his bags and head for Paris, where he honed his skills working at some of the most respected names in the business. He returned some years later to found Bakerzin, and the rest is sweet history.

Now, with this project, Chef Tay pays loving tribute to his dad by bringing to life the Seng Choong Confectionery. From 1 to 12 August 2012, 11 am to 9 pm, venture down to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, 30 Keppel Road, to experience once again Rock Bun, Apple Pie, Bun Susie, and even Kaya, the old fashioned way.

Rock Buns
And speaking of Bun Susie, it is a forgotten snack that Eurasians and Peranakans often served their guests in the time before the 70s. Sadly, these days, not many have heard of it, let alone eaten it.

Here is its recipe; though it may not be exactly the same as Chef Tay’s, it is close enough to be enjoyed by the whole family.

Bun Susie

Butter                         75 g  
Mashed potato          80 g
Castor sugar               50 g
Hi-protein flour          450 g, sifted
Salt                              ½  tsp
Yeast                           10 g
Water                          175 ml, lukewarm
Egg                              1, for glazing

Coriander powder      5 g
Oil                               2 tbsp
Garlic                           5 cloves
Taucheo paste            ½ tbsp
Chicken/Pork              360 g, diced
Dried winter melon    110 g, finely chopped

Light soy sauce           1 tbsp
Sugar                           1 tsp
Pepper                         ½ tsp
Salt                               ½ tsp
Dark soy sauce            1 tsp
Water                           120 ml

1.     Preheat oven at 190°C.
2.    Blend butter, sweet potato and sugar in a bowl until smooth and thoroughly mixed.
3.    Mix flour, salt and yeast and mix thoroughly with a dough mixer.
4.    Add blended sweet potato batter and mix into a crumbly dough. Add water and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes.
5.    Knead dough until smooth. Divide into 22 portions. Flatten the dough, spoon in the filling and shape the dough into a ball.
6.    Place the ball on a greased baking try. Brush with beaten egg and leave it to rise for another 25 minutes.
7.     Bake for 15 minutes.

1.   Pan-fry coriander seeds until fragrant, remove from heat. Pound coriander seed until  
      powder form.
2.   Saute garlic and taucheo until fragrant. Add chicken and coriander powder. Stir well.
3.   Add seasoning and water. Simmer the gravy until it is reduced to near-dryness. Add winter 
      melon. Remove from heat and leave it to cool.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Bitter But Soooo Good!

A group of friends brought me to lunch last week. At first it looked like any other coffee shop, until I walked towards one of the food stalls. At Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, there were three long rows of cooked Teochew dishes lining the stall, and they were enticing enough to make me salivate. But that was not what we had come here for, my foodie friends reminded me.

At the side of the coffee stall sat about 8 large styrofoam boxes; and inside them were a wide variety of fish, reserved, I was told, for regular patrons.  However, I shall reserve that fishy story for a future post.

My friends were raving about another dish. When the dish arrived, it turned out to be bitter gourd cooked with salted egg and omelette. The combination intrigued me. With the first bite, the taste of preserved yellow bean paste hit me instantly. This paste was definitely no stranger to Teochew cooking. Besides cooking with it, the paste was also versatile as a wonderful dip for steamed seafood. The salted egg provided another level of saltiness to the dish. I loved the dish, and tried to replicate it at home. This may not be the actual recipe, but I think it’s close enough!

Bitter Gourd with Salted Egg and Omelette

Bitter gourd                                            250 g, deseeded and sliced thinly
Salt                                                             2 tbsp
Water                                                        4 cups
White vinegar                                         1 tbsp
Salted egg                                                1, boiled and chopped coarsely
Oil                                                               2 tbsp
Egg                                                             1, beaten
Preserved yellow bean paste           1½ tsp
Garlic                                                         1, minced
Sugar                                                         ½ tbsp
Stock                                                         4 tbsp
Corn flour                                                1 tsp, mixed with 1 tbsp of stock

1.     Pour salt over the bitter gourd and let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse the bitter gourd thoroughly and squeeze the water out. Blanch bitter gourd in boiling water and white vinegar for 30 seconds and drain. Soak the bitter gourd in chilled water to stop it cooking. Drain and set aside.
2.     Fry egg into an omelette and break it into pieces with a spatula. Add the omelette to the bitter gourd.
3.     Saute preserved bean paste, garlic and sugar over a medium fire. Add a tsp of water if necessary to prevent it from being burnt.
4.     Once the preserved bean paste is cooked, increase the flame to high. Add bitter gourd and omelette and fry for 3 minutes.
5.     Add stock and salted egg and continue to fry for another 1 minute.
6.     Pour corn flour mixture and stir until the sauce thickens.
7.     Serve immediately.

Note: If you prefer a softer version of the bitter gourd, simmer for a minute or two longer.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Hooked on Sambal Stingray

Stingray was a fish I grew to enjoy eating only in my 20s. Before that, stingray was hardly eaten in my family as it was considered inferior seafood among Chinese, along with shark, tilapia, and even selar kuning. That was the 70s.

Then, some years back, stingray started turning up at hawker centers as a barbeque dish. BBQ stingray became very popular and remains one of the most popular items on the menu of barbeque stalls. As I started paying attention to this fish, I came to realize that it was also a staple of the Peranakan and Malay cuisines. In their recipes stingray would be cooked with spicy sambal and sometimes together with salted vegetables, and the combination of hot and sour makes this dish one of my favourites even until today.

Here’s my version of how to cook stingray at home.

Stingray in Spicy Sauce

Salted vegetables            200 g, rinsed in water thoroughly
Oil                                         2 tbsp
Dried chillies                      2, soaked in warm water
Ginger                                  2 sliced, bashed
Stock/water                      ½  cup
Stingray                               800 g, cut into cubes
Sugar                                    ½ tbsp
Salt                                        ½ tsp

Seafood Sambal Paste
Oil                                          2 tbsp
Shallots                                3, minced
Garlic                                     1, minced
Lemongrass                        1, minced
Ginger flower                     ¼ minced
Belachan                              ½ tsp, toasted
Lime juice                             1 tbsp
Assam                                   2 tbsp, mixed with 2 tbsp of water

1.     Saute shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the rest of the herbs and spices and stir well.
2.     Pour in assam and lime juice and simmer for 3 minutes.
3.     Meanwhile, season the paste with salt and sugar.
4.     Remove from heat and set aside.
5.     Slow-fry salted vegetable in a clean wok, until the water content evaporates from the vegetable. Add 2 tbsp of oil, dried chilies and ginger, continue to sauté the vegetable for 5 mins.
6.     Add sambal, stock and stingray, simmer for 10 minutes.
7.     Season it with salt and sugar.
8.     Serve it immediately.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Ox Tail Stew in Stout – A Heady Brew

It’s a common complaint, especially with the 40-somethings: they’ve had enough of the corporate world; they’re sick of the endless office politicking; and, most compelling of all, they feel like this could be the last chance for them to do something different, something they’re really passionate about, before it’s too late. I was one of them.

When I hit 47, and after more than 10 years as a book publisher, I handed in my resignation, packed my bags, and left for Hong Kong, as they say, to start a new chapter of my life.  I opened a bistro and a bar at SOHO in the heart of Hong Kong.

Most people would consider that a hasty decision, but that’s to put it mildly. In actual fact, to me it was a “no turning back” and “sink or swim” decision rolled into one -- because I had absolutely no F&B experience nor have I ever cooked professionally in my life. But it seemed luck was on my side.

Despite my inexperience, I managed to somehow win the support of fellow Singaporeans living there as well as of the locals -- many of whom, I’m glad to say, have become firm and lasting friends. The media, too, was just as enthusiastic and supportive; my little eateries received TV coverage even in Korea, China and Japan!

During those four years in HK my cooking repertoire expanded, going from Western to Singaporean and than to my own creations. Some recipes became bestsellers; and this is one of them.
Ox Tail Stew in Stout

Ox tail                         600 g
Corn flour                   2 tbsp
Oil                               3 tbsp
Butter                          2 tbsp
Carrot                          2, chopped
Celery                          4 sticks, chopped
Leeks                           2, sliced
Onion                          1, chopped
Garlic                           3, minced
Salt                              1 tsp
Sugar                           1 tbsp
Ham hock                   300 g, cut into chunks
Tomato                       4, skinned, seeded and chopped
Black-eyed beans       200 g, soaked overnight
Stout                           650 ml
Veal stock                   400 ml
Bay leaves                   2
Rosemary                    3 sprigs
Lemongrass                2, bashed
Salt                              2 tsp
Black pepper               1 tsp

1.    Preheat oven at 180°C
2.    Dust ox tail with corn flour and sear till brown. Set aside.
3.    Saute vegetables, ham hock, sugar and salt, with oil and butter until soft.
4.    Add tomato and black-eyed peas and continue to fry for another 5 minutes.
5.    Pour in stout, stock and herbs and stir thoroughly.
6.    Put it in an oven and bake for 2 hours, stir it occasionally.
7.    Season it with salt and pepper before serving.