A cooking frenzy

It’s been three days and I’m still exhausted.

Last Saturday–correction: I started on Friday–I cooked up a storm in my kitchen and invited 10 hungry friends over for lunch.

Remind me never to do that again.

At least I got to test 10 recipes all at one shot and didn’t have to eat leftovers for a week, or so my friend Jess comforted me.

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Anyway, here’s what the menu looked like and a little blabber about each dish (links will go live as I put up recipes on my blog):

Fried Shrimp Rolls (from my friend Carol’s mom Thanh Nguyen)
These were very simple to make, so simple that I made a big boo boo. I was supposed to use spring roll wrappers to wrap the shrimp, but guess what I bought? Wonton skins! Anyway, they still tasted fab dipped in Thai sweet chili sauce. My sis, Mo, suggested trying Japanese mayonnaise as a dipping sauce. Mmm …

Tea Eggs (from the Chong family cookbook)

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Soy sauce, tea bags and star anise (and eggs of course) are the only ingredients that go into making this popular Chinese snack. But there’s definitely a skill involved in cracking the egg shells just-so to create the beautiful marbling effect which I’ve yet to master. Not bad for a first try don’t you think? 

Chinese Pickles (adapted from recipes given to me by Li Chang and Nellie Wong)
I couldn’t resist combining the recipes as they both offered elements I was intrigued with. Li’s recipe uses maple syrup, a substitute for the original ginger syrup that’s not so readily available in the American supermarket. Nellie, on the other hand, included carrots–they add beautiful color!–and she had a very interesting method of cutting her cucumbers.

Chicken Adobo (from Olivia Dyhouse through her sister, Juana Stewart)
So easy, so yummy! I couldn’t resist adding more garlic.

Pepes Jamur or Mushrooms Wrapped in Banana Leaf (from Brigitta Suwanda)

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I admit, I didn’t pound the spice base (comprising lemongrass, shallots, garlic, turmeric, palm sugar, candlenuts) in a mortar and pestle. I used a modern kitchen vice–the food processor.

1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spare Ribs (adapted from recipes given by Jonathan Liu and Ivy Chan)
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See those numbers up there, that’s the ratio of ingredients: 1 part alcohol to 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts sugar to 4 parts soy sauce, and finally 5 parts water. This is just too much fun and one reason I love this recipe. How many recipes like this are there out there? It’s also easy to prepare and oh-so-delicious. As Jonathan said, it’s got “one of the best ease-of-preparation to tastiness ratios!”

Gai lan or Chinese broccoli in Oyster Sauce
Having eaten this at many dim sum lunches, I attempted to come up with my own concoction. It’s a deceptively simple preparation (or so I thought)–blanch the gai lan and drizzle with an oyster sauce mixture (oyster sauce, wine, sesame oil, broth, and sugar). I cooked about 2 pounds of veggies and they were a little soggy, plus there wasn’t enough sauce. I’m going to have to work on this one. 

Beef, Tomato and Green Pepper Stir-fry (from Mary Lee Chin; recipe is below)
This dish was hands-down everyone’s favorite. It was tasty, the beef so tender, and Mary’s recipe was spot-on, making my life so easy! I suspect Mary, who is a registered dietician, is quite an old hand at writing recipes.

Honeydew sago

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Sago is another name for tapioca pearls, however, you shouldn’t substitute the sago found at the Asian grocery store with the American supermarket version. I have fond memories of many a birthday party where I’d slurp down ice-cold bowls of honeydew bits (sometimes they were balls, sometimes cubed) and sago in coconut milk. In those days, I would pick out and eat the fruit first, but this time round I savored the sago just as much. It’s funny what you learn to appreciate later in life.

My mum’s wedang jahe or ginger tea
You have to love ginger to love this drink. I used 8 oz of fresh ginger to make about 4 cups (or about 8 servings). Yes, that’s a lot of ginger but I’m thrilled to report that all my friends gulped it down! Maybe it was the pandan syrup. 

Please be patient with me as I post the above recipes. All the more reason for you to come back and visit often!

Since it was such a hit, I’ll start off with Mary Lee Chin’s Beef, Tomato and Green Pepper recipe.

Beef, Tomato, and Green Pepper Stir-fry

OK, so I almost forgot to take a photograph and when I got around to it, it was just about gone. Hey, you try making 10 different items, taking notes and photos, and entertaining 10 guests at the same time! 

Don’t let the various steps in this dish fool you: it’s fairly easy to make and the results are delicious. As with all stir-fries, this dish is very versatile. Instead of tomatoes, green pepper and fermented black beans, try using broccoli, green beans, or bok choy with fresh ginger. Served with a bowl of white rice, it makes a complete meal.

Time: 30 minutes (prep), 15 minutes (cook)
Makes: 4 to 6 servings eaten with rice

1 pound round steak, trimmed
1 tablespoon sherry or Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons fermented black beans or “dow see,” rinsed and drained (optional but highly recommended)
1 medium onion, cut into 8 to 10 wedges and separated
1 green pepper, cut into 10 to 12 strips
2 stalks celery, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 3 tablespoons water to form a slurry
2 ripe medium tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste

So that beef is easier to cut, handle it partly frozen (if it’s fresh, freeze for about 30 minutes). Cut meat along the grain into 1-1/2-inch-wide strips. Then, with your knife at an angle almost parallel to the cutting surface, slice the meat diagonally against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices.  

In a medium bowl, toss beef with sherry, oyster and soy sauces, and sugar. Cover the bowl and let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or up to overnight.

Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat. [Wait about 30 seconds and sprinkle a few drops of water. If the water sizzles and evaporates immediately, the wok is hot enough.] Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add garlic and fry briefly until lightly browned, about 15 seconds. Discard. Add black beans and onion, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add green pepper and celery. Stir-fry 2 minutes until crisp-tender. Set aside.

Return the same wok to high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Divide marinated meat into 4 small batches and stir-fry each batch until pieces are still a little pink, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer each batch to a single plate when done

Return cooked vegetables to wok at high heat. Add cooked meat and toss continuously until heated through, about 1 minute. Add cornstarch mixture, and toss to coat meat and vegetables evenly. Cook until mixture thickens and the meat and vegetables look glossy, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and soy sauce. Toss quickly until heated through, about another minute.

Serve immediately.