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Yum Cha-Style Porridge and Hua Chiew Crabs

Yesterday, Mum and I decided to wander aimlessly in the Chinese area of Perth till we hit something. We discovered Emma's Yong Tau Foo, which is deceptively named, because it's a major yong tau foo (tofu or vegetables stuffed with meat paste) supplier but also a huge Asian grocery emporium. That was the first place in Perth I'd seen anyone selling tsuyu in 2 litre bottles, and in a few brands too. We bought tsuyu, man tou and far too many dumplings. Their frozen section is surreal for the vast array of dumplings it holds. Then we wandered into a large tofu maker's store and bought far too much tofu and vegetarian char siew (roast meat), which is great in fried vermicelli dishes. And then we somehow stumbled into Atlantic Seafood, which is some kind of seafood heaven on earth in this country of vapid seafood counters. They even had goldfish for $20 floating around with the perch in a fish tank liable to scare the fish fiend friends, which I haven't seen sold as food since the last time I was in Indonesia. (eekers, ask Su about fried gurami when you can...) We walked in just as they fished out a dead snow crab from their tank, and we got a good deal on that, a mackerel tail for fish balls, a different kind of mackerel for steaming and some flower crabs for baking. I'm going to put up the recipe we used on the snow crab, because it's really simple and horribly good.

Steamed Hua Chiew Crabs

Steamed crabs are great for colder weather, with warm tea. Eat with your fingers, and worry about the mess later.

Crabs (ask your fishmonger to segment them)
Hua Chiew*
Light soy sauce (a few tablespoonfuls)
1 knob fresh ginger (sliced thin)
A few sprigs of spring onion (sliced thin)

1. Plonk your crabs in a wok or large shallow pan.
2. Add just about enough hua chiew to cover about half your crabs.
3. Add the light soy sauce, ginger and spring onion.
4. Bring everything to boil and allow to simmer until your crabs are just cooked.
5. Serve hot, with the gravy. Goes well with steamed rice.

* Hua Chiew is different from regular Chinese cooking wines in that it's made from a mix glutinous rice and other grains. It has a sweeter, floral fragrance and taste that lends itself well to seafood. Regular Chinese cooking wines are often made from glutinous rice alone, and may smell a bit astringent under the perfume of fermented rice. It is often used for the scent in marinades, as it does not have any distinct flavour of its own.

Chicken Porridge with Two Kinds of Preserved Eggs

The other great thing about cold weather is that it's a great excuse to eat a lot of rice porridge. If you've ever gone for dim sum, you might've ordered a bowl of the house's rice porridge, typically made from a chicken and pork-based stock and served with two kinds of preserved egg. This dish is easy to replicate at home, and doesn't require any arcane skills. It's a really good comfort food.

1 part rice to 7-8 parts water (or stock)
1 chicken breast
1 salted egg (hard boiled)
1 century egg
1 knob fresh ginger (sliced thin)
2 sprigs spring onion (finely chopped)
1 carrot (sliced fine) [optional]
Crispy fried noodles or crushed crackers [optional]
Salt

1. Coat the chicken breast well with salt and allow to marinade for 2 hours (preferably overnight).
2. Bring rice and water to boil. Add ginger and carrot.
3. Lower flame to simmer on medium heat. Stir regularly to prevent the rice from burning. If the rice appears to be drying out, add more liquid. Rice porridge is ideally creamy and feels slightly "heavy" when stirred. You'll know it's done when it reaches this texture.
4. Chop the eggs finely. Century eggs do not require boiling before use, as they already possess a jelly-like texture from pickling.
5. Slice chicken very thin, and divide small amounts into your serving bowls.
6. Add a generous tablespoon or more of the eggs at the bottom of your serving bowls.
7. Bring porridge to boil (important: you need your chicken slices cooked thoroughly to prevent salmonella; if you'd rather have the chicken well done, add the chicken to the boiling porridge right before serving). Ladle boiling porridge into your bowls.
8. Garnish with a bit of spring onion and crispy fried noodles. Serve immediately. Goes well with a selection of pickled greens and hot tea.

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
eekers
May. 27th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
Gourami, as in the lickle fish? *sobs* ? Surely not? *sobs more*

:)

What does salted egg taste like? It seems less scary then century egg :)

Can we have links for the crab references too pls? I know nothing about them... :(
vampyrichamster
May. 27th, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
Gourami, as in...er...Percy-sizes. Which, going by the goldfish I have, ain't "lickle". ;)

*coughs* Far be it from me to suggest one's goldfish be an emergency food ration...

Oh, oooo! Rabbit sanctuary icon!

Salted egg probably does taste less scary than century egg. ;) Salted egg (usually eaten hardboiled or added into flower egg-style soups and sauces -- said sauce is amazing on all green vegetables), tastes just like normal egg, with lots of salt. It also looks exactly like a normal egg.

Century egg, which you may have already eaten at the yum cha place, has a dark brown jelly-like white and gray, somewhat moist yolks. They taste like a mildly chicken-flavoured jelly (or aspic!). Very nice, when served sliced and chilled.

There are a wide variety of cooking wines, and hua chiew is quite generic, I think. Generally speaking, cheap Chinese cooking wine will only say it was fermented from glutinous rice. Good quality cooking wine is fermented from glutinous rice and one or two other grains, usually wheat. Good quality cooking wine needn't be more expensive either, so it's probably not a good idea to go by price if you're looking just to cook with it. (we got a bottle the other day for $2).

Whatever brand your local store supplies though, you'll want something that smells quite strongly flowery and tastes mildly sweet, with neither an astringent after-scent or worse, aftertaste. If the wine tastes like seawater or straight alchohol, it's probably the lower quality stuff. That said, I did find a good page on the different kinds of Chinese wine. The one I'm referring to in the recipe is "huadiao jiu": http://www.answers.com/topic/chinese-wine
dame_ningen
May. 28th, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
A tofu makers store :D~~~~
I really wish we had one of those here. Your Chinatown sounds much better than ours!
When I was in Japan I went to the most wonderful little tofu makers store almost every day. The tofu they made was really amazingly delicious >< Totally different experience to anything you can buy here. I could seriously live on that stuff. I was so excited by it I wanted to apprentice myself to them.
vampyrichamster
May. 28th, 2006 09:55 am (UTC)
Well, it's not much of a Chinatown in Perth, just a collection of Chinese or Vietnamese shops. Really, we went to the three or so really good places to get tofu, seafood and Asian groceries. Which is more than enough, since walking around for 2 hours with 2 kg of crabs in one hand, and 1.8 litres of tsuyu in the other... is probably worthwhile when the food is cooked. ;)

I miss the tofu counter in Isetan back in Kuala Lumpur, where I come from. Isetan had glass windows that showed you their entire tofu making room, and the tofu would be made fresh everyday. It was so naturally made that you couldn't keep the products in the fridge for longer than 2-3 days at most, and the soy milk would definitely go bad within a day. There were so many kinds of tofu, it used to drive me a bit squirrely. Like, I used to wait for their fresh batches of fried tofu. They'd still be warm when I got home. Or their agedashi tofu boxes. I love tofu, in all its forms, curds, patties and strips!

It really does taste different. Especially if you just eat it on its own with a dash of soy sauce. Oooooooo, tofu making apprenticeship! :)

Some organic/health food stores have tofu making kits, complete with mini-presses. Making your own soy milk is actually not so hard, and if you really don't mind instant, most Asian stores I've seen here sell Hon brand Japanese instant tofu powder. You have a packet of soy milk mix, which you bring to boil in water, and a coagulant. Essentially, you can get a very nice soft tofu with it.
dame_ningen
May. 28th, 2006 10:11 am (UTC)
Yeah its the freshness that makes it so good. This stuff that sits in the supermarkets here for months on end is not tofu at all in my opinion. In fact there is very little edible food to be found in supermarkets at all.
There are local tofu companies here that make a half reasonable product and distribute it the chinese grocers, but it still is not in the same league as the dedicated tofu making shop.

I did try making it myself once from beans with a japanese box thingy. It was quite nice but i didn't manage to get it as smooth as I would have liked and it was lots of work for just a small cake of tofu. I might try the powder though...that sounds much easier.
vampyrichamster
May. 28th, 2006 10:33 am (UTC)
*nods* I agree, the local tofu companies here make a very rough quality of tofu. In fact, up until two months ago, I was having trouble finding silken tofu, as the only species they seem to be selling are the grainy plain tofu, the grainy fried tofu and the Japanese egg tofu (which is kind of alright - it tastes close to what I used to get in Malaysia). The silken tofu is still slightly off, as it's slightly powdery, but it's serviceable. Also, tofu that can last a whole month is quite wrong.

The powder beats the manual method by far, as there's no pressing involved. The Hon brand tofu is good for making tau fu fa, or dessert tofu which is plain soft tofu and sugar syrup. But it goes just as well with soy sauce too.
dame_ningen
May. 28th, 2006 11:03 am (UTC)
Oh I LOVE that dessert tofu...I have it Yum Cha everytime I go and I'd love to try and make it at home. What is in the sugar syrup? Is it just sugar and water? It always tastes slightly almondy or something.
vampyrichamster
May. 28th, 2006 11:16 am (UTC)
The sugar syrup varies: the basic syrup is plain sugar and water, but you can add either almond essence or pandan (screwpine) leaf and fresh ginger, which both lend a refreshing note. Another kind of sugar syrup is actually palm sugar and water, which results in a pleasantly bitter-ish caramel flavour. :)
dame_ningen
May. 28th, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)
oh yummy :)~~~
I think I'll go get some powder and some palm sugar tomorrow.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )