Friday, 20 September 2013

Show Some Skin

When I was a kid, I would know Mid-Autumn Festival was around the corner because my relatives would send huge paper lanterns to our home. These lanterns were about 1.5 metres tall, wrapped with painted cellophane paper and decorated with tassels. Inside the lantern, and driven by hot air from the candle, a ring of painted scenic and calligraphic images would rotate. It was gorgeous! Such lanterns are sadly extinct from Singapore; but the moon cake, fortunately, is still around.

I’ve never been greatly enamored of moon cakes; I find their fillings too sweet to like. But there is a fruit I always associate with Mid-Autumn Festival -- the pomelo. I love it and could literally eat it non-stop, until one day I discovered that excessive quantities of it upset my digestion. 

However, the fruit was useful in other ways. My cousins and I would make our own lanterns with pomelo skins. Using a pointed knife, we would cut holes through the skin so the light would cast graphic shadows on the wall. The grown-ups of the family, who prized the discarded skins as an ingredient for certain dishes, would try to hide them from the kids.

When treated as described in the recipe below, the pomelo skin behaves like a sponge; so specially prepared stocks are often used to braise it. In fact, I used superior stock that is good enough for abalone and other delicacies. The texture of skin that I got out of it can be compared to a savory bread pudding.

Braised Pomelo with Prawn Roe

Pomelo skin                           ½ fruit, quartered
Lard                                         5 tbsp
Young ginger                         4 slices
Roast pork                              200 g
Superior stock                        4 cups
Superior abalone sauce         2 tbsp
Prawn roe                               3 tbsp
Dark soy sauce                       1 tbsp
Brown sugar                           ½ tbsp
Salt                                          2 tsp
Sesame oil                              ½ tsp

1.         Grill the pomelo skin (the green outer side only) over fire till it is charred all over.
2.         Soak the charred pomelo skin under water. Peel off the charred surface until the skin is totally clean of burnt surfaces.
3.         Rinse skin thoroughly, and soak in clean water for 2 days. During this period, change water periodically.
4.         Squeeze pomelo skin dry and boil it for 5 minutes.
5.         Remove and submerge in cold water.
6.         Squeeze out all liquid and repeat Step 5 twice.
7.         Pan fry pomelo skin in a dry pan until all liquid evaporates. Remove and set aside.
8.         Saute ginger and roast pork with lard. Sprinkle Chinese wine. Add stock and reduce the sauce slightly.
9.         Season it with prawn roe (2 tbsp), dark soy sauce, brown sugar and salt.
10.      Add pomelo skin and braise for 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken by now.
11.      Serve pomelo skin on a serving plate. Pour gravy over the skin.
12.      Add a dash of sesame oil and sprinkle the remaining prawn roe over the dish.
13.      Serve hot.