Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mac & Cheese With Oriental-Style Chicken Tofu Meatballs - 5 Star Makeover Participation

I happened to catch an episode of The Rachel Ray Show on TV recently where it showed her making the most delicious looking American-style beef meatball mac & cheese EVER!
From that episode on, the plain view I had of mac & cheese was redefined to a new paradigm shift and thought to myself that I should try to make some soon!
And then last week, while visiting Natasha of 5 Star Foodie's fantastic blog, I was elated to read that she had chosen mac & cheese as the subject of this month's 5 Star Makeover. I immediately knew I wanted to participate. To participate in Natasha's 5 Star Makeover, one needs to create the chosen food (this month's choice is mac & cheese) with a modern, healthy, fusion, molecular gastronomy, seasonal, or adapting to a particular cuisine style.

After some thinking, I decided to go with 'adapting to a particular cuisine style' by combining American mac & cheese with Oriental-style chicken tofu meatballs. Inspired by a recipe I once stumbled upon which uses tofu with prawn meat, I created my own version of tofu with chicken and added a variety of Oriental-style seasonings - basically, whatever I have in my kitchen. So, here it is - my Oriental chicken tofu meatball recipe and the complete mac & cheese meal which I hope you will enjoy.
This recipe serves 3.


Oriental-Style Chicken Tofu Meatballs

- 250 g minced chicken meat
- 150 g white tofu, mashed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 5-6 stalks of cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp pepper powder
- 1/2 cup oil for frying

Mix everything together really, really thoroughly to ensure that all the seasonings & beaten egg are mixed in well with the minced chicken and mashed tofu. Shape each tablespoon of the mixture into round balls. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the meatballs till golden brown. Note: I prefer to flatten the meatballs a little so that lesser oil is required for frying.

Mac & Cheese
- 1.5 cups mini shell pasta/macaroni
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 pips garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (add more if you like)
- 8-10 mini/cherry tomatoes, halves
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- Some crushed black peppercorn & grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Boil the pasta till al dente. Strain and leave aside. Heat the butter in a pan, then saute the onion and garlic till slightly golden brown. Add the oregano, and then pour in the cooked pasta, milk, the grated cheese and tomatoes. Add in the fried meatballs and continue to stir for another minute or so till the cheese has melted. Serve with sprinkles of crushed black peppercorns, a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese and a few sprigs of cilantro as garnish.

The aromatic and flavorful chicken tofu meatballs with hints of Oriental seasonings were wonderful addition to the rich and creamy mac & cheese, making it a complete & delicious meal.


Natasha will be doing a round-up of all submissions on Nov 2, so be sure to visit her 5 Star Foodie blog to see all the various mac & cheese creations by participating food bloggers.

Bon Appetit!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mom's Nyonya Kuah Lada (Fish & Brinjal In Turmeric & Peppercorn Gravy)

Kuah Lada ('Kuah': soup/gravy; 'Lada': pepper) is a specialty Melaka Nyonya dish consisting of fish and brinjal (aubergine/eggplant) cooked in turmeric and peppercorn gravy, with a hint of tartness from tamarind paste juice. Mackerel (ikan tenggiri) or stingray (ikan pari) are the two preferred types of fish often used to cook kuah lada, although other suitable fish may be used too, like hardtail mackerel (ikan cencaru) and pomfret (ikan bawal).

This is one of my many favorite homey Nyonya dishes often prepared by my Mom, who was a terrific cook of Nyonya food and cakes. This dish goes so great with a plate of plain rice. Depending on the palate of individual Nyonya household, the degree of tartness can be adjusted by using more or lesser tamarind paste juice. I love mine with more tamarind paste juice as the sour & peppery turmeric taste never fails to whet my appetite. It is also one of the 'specialty & less commercial' dishes that one can hardly find in a Nyonya restaurant, so if you love authentic Melaka Nyonya food, this is worth a try at home.


4 fish fillets/slices
2 brinjals, cut into 1.5 inches blocks and quarter them
1 tbsp tamarind paste rubbed in 2 cups water (use your fingers to rub and squeeze the tamarind paste thoroughly in the water, then discard the seeds)
1/4 cup oil

Pound/blend together:
40 gms garlic
80 gms shallots
1 inch long fresh turmeric (or half tbsp turmeric powder)
1 fresh red chilli (this is optional)
1 inch block Asian shrimp paste (belacan)
1/2 tbsp white peppercorns
3 candlenuts (buah keras)
salt to taste


Heat oil in a wok or pan, saute all the blended paste for about 10-13 minutes until fragrant. Transfer the sauteed paste into a small pot, add the 2 cups of tamarind juice, and let it boil on medium heat. Add in the brinjals, let it boil and cook until soft for maybe another 10 minutes, and then add in the fish slices and let it simmer for 5 minutes till they are cooked. Serve with rice.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Japanese-inspired Shiso Chirimen Fried Rice

There was a Kyushu food fair going on recently at a supermarket in town. I happened to be there strolling along the aisles in my own carefree moment when a Japanese guy politely smiled and invited me to try out the products he was selling at his booth - a variety of different seaweeds. After tasting of a couple of different flavors, I decided to show him some support and bought a packet of shiso chirimen - which is seaweed with dried anchovies and toasted sesame seeds. According to him, people in Japan eat shiso chirimen with rice at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Further cooking is not necessary as it can be eaten straight from the packet. As my husband and I are both rice-loving people but with some hesitation of eating it with plain rice, I decided to make a simple Japanese-inspired fried rice instead - with lots of chopped garlic!

With the intention to blog about this ingredient, I 'googled' to double check on what shiso chirimen means [not that I didn't trust the Japanese guy!..just that I wanted to enhance my knowledge :)..]. What I found on the web was that shiso refers to a type of plant with paper-thin leaves with jagged edges which is also called perilla or beefsteak plant or chinese basil or purple mint, and chirimen refers to small anchovies. The description of shiso on the web doesn't say anything about it being seaweed at all. So, I'm confused. Is it seaweed or is it not? (If anyone knows, please enlighten me.) But it sure tasted like seaweed & I'm very sure the Japanese guy knows his stuff. Anyway, seaweed or not, it added a really nice leafy flavor to the fried rice and it made up for the need for any other ingredients other than garlic & eggs to whip up an easy, quick & delicious fried rice meal.

Shiso chirimen


- 1 big bowl of cooked long grain rice (best if the rice has been left in the fridge overnight, but not entirely necessary)
- 4-5 pips garlic, chopped
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1 small bowl of shiso chirimen
- Some mini/cherry tomatoes, halve
- Dash of salt & pepper
- 3 tbsp cooking oil + 1 tsp sesame seed oil

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok/pan and break the 2 eggs inside. Stir and fry, breaking the eggs into pieces. When slightly browned, dish out and set aside. Heat the remaining oil and saute the chopped garlic and shallots until they are brown and fragrant. Mix in the shiso chirimen, tomatoes, rice, fried eggs, salt and pepper and stir fry for 4-5 minutes. If it gets too dry, add in 1 tbsp of water at a time if needed while stir frying the rice. Dish up & serve. A simple, quick and inexpensive meal!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Kam Heong Chicken

'Kam heong chicken' is a very delicious and popular dish served in many Chinese restaurants or eating shops throughout Malaysia. Apart from preparing 'kam heong' dish with chicken, also very popular amongst diners is the clam version, which we would call 'kam heong lala' locally. It's a very easy dish to cook, yet so tasty and fragrant as it uses curry leaves, and goes really well with white rice.


kamheong2Firstly, prepare the 'kam heong' sauce
as follows:
A) Ingredients
- 100g dried prawns, soaked in water
for 10 mins
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 8 shallots, chopped
- 1/2 bowl curry leaves
- 6 bird's eye chillies (cili padi), chopped
- 3 tbsp oil

B) Seasoning
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp little dark soy sauce

C) Method
- Heat 3 tbsp oil and saute the dried prawns, chopped garlic and shallots till very fragrant.
- Add in curry leaves and chopped chillies, all the seasoning and stir fry until aromatic. Remove from heat.

Now that the sauce above is ready, here is how to prepare 'kam heong chicken':
A) Ingredients
- 2 chicken thighs, cut into pieces
- 5 tbsp 'kam heong' sauce
- 100ml water

B) Marinade
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp corn flour
- 1 tsp sesame seed oil

C) Method
- Mix chicken with marinade and leave for 30 mins in the refrigerator
- Deep fry in hot oil till golden brown
- Heat up 1 tbsp oil and saute 'kam heong' sauce till fragrant
- Add in fried chicken pieces, water & stir well
- Cook until the gravy is thick. Dish up & serve hot.

Enjoy the recipe & Cheers,