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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]

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.



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