Dip for Fried Fish

May 9, 2010

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I like plain fried fish – marinated with salt and turmeric, or with salt and white pepper. It has to be fried right, and that means it must be crispy on the outside and moist inside, not bone dry.

I could happily have a plate of hot rice with just fried fish, with condiments like kicap manis and sambal belacan. But I like it most with this dipping sauce – a sweet-sour-salty-spicy dip made with sliced shallots, kalamansi lime juice, sugar, thick soya sauce and bird’s eye chilli.

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This is the combination I like, but there are many other versions.
Some people use tamarind juice for the sourness, and some add carambola or belimbing buluh. Some people add toasted belacan (prawn paste) too, and some don’t use soya sauce.

I also like this dip with sambal belacan (red chillies pounded with toasted belacan). The best place to sample these dips is at the stalls selling grilled fish. My favourite dip the one served at Pak Din’s stall at the Jalan Tanglin food court at the Lake Gardens.

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RECIPE

Dipping Sauce

5 shallots, sliced thinly
Juice from 6-8 calamansi lime
4-5 bird’s eye chilli, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon thick soya sauce

Mix the shallots with the calamansi lime juice for at least ten minutes. Then, add the bird’s eye chilli, sugar and thick soya sauce. Mix well, and taste. Adjust the seasoning accordingly.

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Kelantan Peranakan Food – Chicken Kerabu

May 3, 2010

I have a long list of must-eats whenever I am in Kelantan. There are mornings when I have two breakfast – the first one when I get to the market as soon as I wake up at the crack of dawn, and the other one with my friends who wake up at more reasonable hours. I love laksam, nasi berlauk, nasi dagang, nasi ulam, deep-fried kangkung, belud and even the various sweet kuih. In the evenings, there is ayam percik at Buluh Kasap which I visit religiously even if we have dubbed in diarrhea square, and sometimes not in jest.

But there is so much more to Kelantanese food than its Malay and Thai offerings, as I discovered when I did my first feature on the state’s food for the Sunday Plus. My guides were two Kelantanese Chinese boys whom we had known well through Thea Star’s Young Journalist Programme, BRATs.

Shawn and Beng Chuan introduced me to the term Cina Kampung on that trip. In Kelantan, the Chinese are distinguished as Cina Kampung or Cina Bandar. The former is so called because they live in villages among the Malays, or surrounded by Malays. The latter are the Chinese that settled in Kelantan much later, and live in towns.

Shawn’s family has been in Kelantan for nine generations, and they have lived among the Malays for a long time. Academicians define his community as Peranakan because there have assimilated Malay cultural practices in their daily lives. There are also Thai influences due to the state’s proximity to Thailand.

They speak Malay like it’s their mother tongue, and their Chinese dialect bears strong Malay and Thai influences. The women wear Malay dresses, and the men kain pelikat.

However, like their Malaccan and Penang counterparts, they retain their Chinese identity in their religious beliefs and observance of Chinese traditions. They also participate in Kelantanese Malay pastimes like top spinning and kite flying, as well as in traditional Malay performing arts such as dikir barat and wayang kulit.

Not many people know of the Kelantan or Terengganu Peranakan because their community is so small and their numbers are dwindling as more marry outside the group, and are assimilated with the general Chinese population.

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On that trip some 15 years ago, Shawn introduced me to Kelantan Peranakan food. His aunt lives in a house with a big compound in a Malay kampung, and she showed me how they make khau jan (which is Thai for nasi ulam) and laksam. Khau jan is what Shawn’s family serve on Chinese New Year, complete with fish flakes, budu and keropok ikan. The herbs are plucked from the garden, and Shawn’s aunt knew some of them by their Malay names and some only by their Thai names.

Sharon Tan did an excellent  feature on Kelantan Peranakan Food a few years ago for Flavours magazine, and Shawn’s aunt graciously shared several of her recipes. Their food is delicious, and different from the other Peranakan offerings as they bear Kelantanese Malay and Thai influences. For starters, they use a lot more coconut, and they flavour their food with budu ( a local fish sauce that is not used in the rest of Malaysia) and palm sugar. There is also more use of herbs and ulam to flavour their food.

Khau jan is a signature dish, and the best nasi dagang I had in Kelantan was from a Chinese stall. Customers ask for nasi dagang mixed with nasi berlauk, with accompaniments such as beef rendang, fish curry and chicken, with of course budu and keropok.

There are also easier dishes to make, like egg kesum, kerabu chicken and beef kaduk.  There is budu for sale in the markets, but Kelantanese usually buy their budu from people they know so they can be sure it’s hygienically prepared. I haven’t gone to Kelantan in years, and my stock of budu has run out. So, I substituted budu (which I love) with fish sauce.

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CHICKEN KERABU
(From Flavours Magazine – Sept/Oct 2006)
RECIPE

Ingredients
1/4 chicken
50ml water

6 shallots, slice thinly
2 stalks young lemongrass, sliced thinly
1 medium-sized torch ginger bud, sliced thinly
1 sprig polygonum (daun kesum), sliced thinly
1 cabbage leaf, sliced thinly
5 bird’s eye chillies, sliced

10 limes, halved and squeezed for juice
1cm gula melaka
1 tablespoon budu
1/2cm belacan (optional)
Salt to taste

Method
Boil the chicken in a small pot until it is cooked. Set aside to cool, then shred the meat.

Mix all the sliced items in a deep bowl. Add in the lime juice, gula melaka, budu and salt. Add the shredded chicken and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Asam Prawns

April 24, 2010

There is always a jar of tamarind, or asam jawa, in my kitchen. It is an essential ingredient in our food, as it’s the base for many of the curries in Peranakan cuisine. Tamarind is a souring agent, but there is also a hint of sweetness in it. So, it’s not as sharp as vinegar, or as tart as citrus fruits.

In Malaysia, we use the tamarind pulp around the seeds. Some manufacturers would remove the seeds, but according to my mother those are not so good. I don’t know the basis for that observation since we throw away the seeds anyway, but I concede to her authoritative knowledge.

asam

Tamarind is sold in the market, and usually keeps for a long time. The rule is to choose tamarind that is brown. The longer you keep it, the darker it gets. To use the tamarind, just add hot water to it, and use the juice.

It took me awhile to learn to gauge how much tamarind to use for a dish… and it’s still not second nature to me yet. I am still tasting my curry as I cook it to check if there is enough tamarind. My asam pedas (spicy sourish fish curry) is still not up to notch – “Why doesn’t it taste like your mom’s?” – because I can’t get the tamarind right yet.

Buy fresh prawns with firm shells, and check that the eyes are glosssy.

Tamarind prawns, or asam prawns, is however easy to make. It’s usually on the menu of most Peranakan restaurants. There is nothing much to do except to marinate the prawns in tamarind and season with salt and sugar, and then fry it quickly.

I like my asam prawns a little moist, so I don’t fry it till it’s dry.But some people like it that way, so it’s a matter of preference. Use medium-sized prawns with thin shells for this dish. I love the tamarind that coats the prawns, so I usually lick the shells clean. The best part is the prawn heads as the sourness of the tamarind really brings out their sweetness.

RECIPE

ASAM PRAWNS

600g medium prawns, remove one segment of the shell
1 tablespoon tamarind, add 3 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt, or according to taste
a dash white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar, or according to taste
5 tablespoon cooking oil

Marinate the prawns in the tamarind juice, with the pulp and all. Add the rest of the seasoning. Mix well to make sure the prawns are all coated. It’s easier to do this with your hands.
Leave aside for about 20 minutes.
Heat the cooking oil. Fry the prawns until it turns pink over medium heat. Just before removing the prawns, turn the heat up and turn the prawns quickly. This will make the prawns a little crispy on the outside while its flesh remains moist.
You’ll know it’s ready because the dish is so aromatic.
Serve with hot rice and sambal belacan

Asam and Jeruk

April 16, 2010

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I have a sour tooth; I crave for sourness and I love all kinds of sour. According to Wikipedia, sourness is the taste that detects acidity – there’s tantric acid and citric acid. I don’t know all that mumbo jumbo, but I can distinguish different types of sourness – mouth puckering sourness, refreshing sourness, sweet sourness. Whatever the degree, sourness just livens up the taste buds.

There is the intense sourness that shoots straight into your head, like when you suck on asamboi or bite into a young unripe mango. There is the rounded sourness of tamarind, usually tempered with sugar. There is the sharp sourness of lemon, lime and kalamansi limes. There is the sourness of vinegar – I love the sourness of black vinegar cooked with pigs trotter and old ginger. There is also the sourness of belimbing buluh (carambola) that softens when cooked in coconut milk, and absorbs the flavours of the spices.

I hardly ever crave for sweet desserts, but am always feeding my sour tooth. But I have also realised that loads of sugar is used to balance sour, so I am actually feeding both my sweet and sour tooth.

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My favourite snacks are these asam and jeruk – essentially dried or/and pickled fruits and ginger and lime peels. I’ll also admit that half the time I don’t know what I am eating, except that it’s some fruit.

In Hokkien, they are collectively called kiam-sui-ti, which translates to salty-sour-sweet. And that’s the flavours of these snacks – they are interesting because there are hardly ever single-flavoured; but layered and nuanced. Preserving and drying these fruits also intensify the flavours.

There are stalls in markets and supermarkets these days, selling these asam and jeruk by weight. Once upon a time, we bought these in ready-packed packets, and they cost ten or 20 cents.
Except in provision shops where you can still get them in small plastic packets stapled to a board, most stalls now sell them by grams and a scoop costs a few ringgit, depending on what you chose.

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Asamboi must be one of the most popular. These are dried sour plums that are sour, salty and sweet. Connoisseurs can discern the quality of asamboi – good ones are big and fat, and the flesh comes off cleanly from the seeds, and has the sour-salty-sweet balance right. The ones that are overwhelmingly salty are no good.

There is also asamboi dyed red; they are generally similar to the white ones but some of these are softer. Some people like the soft asamboi as their flavours are gentler.

My mother was convinced I was a skinny kid because I ate so much asamboi. I probably spent my pocket money on asamboi everyday. I can’t remember when I stopped chewing on asamboi but it did keep me awake when I was mugging late into the wee hours of the morning (and listening to an emo Malay programme on radio when the DJ reads out readers’ letters on love and heartbreak).

Apart from chewing on them in between sips of iced water, it is also great for making ice lollies.. Asamboi powder (asamboi flesh blended finely with lots of sugar) is also the best dip for fruits like guava and pineapple.

I also love lemon peels. They are also sweet, sour and salty, but is less intense. They are comforting, and not quite as mouth puckering sour as asamboi. I like them especially for long drives to help keep me awake. I also like them better than asamboi to keep nausea at bay.

There must easily be 40-50 types of these preserved fruits at these asamboi stalls. There are lots of plums – or at least they are called plums – in the selection, in varying degree of the sour-salty-sweet balance. The stall owner told me most of them are imported from China.

The other asam I like is the red ginger. It’s dyed the brightest red, and will stain your fingers and tongue. It’s hot and sweet, and best chewed on with sips of the iciest water. There are two types – the drier version which I like best, while the other one is a softer and moist version which lacks the ooomph of the former. I was also recently introduced to crystal-like yellow ginger, which is similar to the preserved ginger found in the West.

These asam and jeruk stalls are my version of the Western candy store. Their offerings are not so pretty, but they get my tastebuds going and they are immensely comforting and satisfying.

Daging Masak Kicap

April 12, 2010

For the past two weeks or so, Marina Mustafa’s cookbook Memorable Recipes for Malay Occasions has been in my kitchen, as I was reviewing the book for StarTwo. I liked the book from the moment I flipped through the pages in Popular late last year, and had specifically asked for a copy to review. Check out the review here, with two recipes I tried out.

I am always on the look out for good local cookbooks, especially those on Malay cooking. I like Marina’s cookbook for many reasons, but mostly because it’s full of heart and charm. I was compelled to try many of the recipes, drawn by the stories behind them.

I chose a super easy recipe to test first. Some friends were coming for tea, and I made the ubi kayu bersantan partly because it was the writer’s favourite recipe. It was easy enough, and the santan sauce was delicious. I have always had steamed ubi kayu sprinkled with sugar and grated coconut, so this was a delightful change.

I tried the Nasi Tomato and Ayam Masak Merah the next day, and was a little confused by the recipes – the nasi tomato recipe didin’t specify the amount of tomato puree needed, and there was no chilli in the ayam masak merah recipe. But I had bought all the ingredients, plus I am kinda on a quest to find the right nasi tomato and ayam masak merah recipe.

I fiddled a little with the recipes, like use less ghee. A ladleful of ghee sounded too daunting and I used only 2 tablespoons.

So, it was not surprising that the one complaint I got was that the rice was not aromatic enough…”nasi tomato is supposed to be fragrant….this is not,” I was educated….ahem!

Midweek, I had a really good and enjoyable interview with Marina, and her beautiful mom and lovely daughter. They are the real deal; they are warm and generous and really passionate about their family, food and cooking. I always believe that the nicest people cook the nicest food, and was even more inspired to try out the recipes.

I then tried a kuih lapis recipe because it is an heirloom recipe, and it looks easy. Of course, nothing to do with baking is easy in my hands. I have a basic cake mixer that was part of the three or eight cheap cake mixer that a friend got as her wedding gift. So, when I beat my egg whites, it didn’t form into peaks _ I later YouTubed beating egg white till fluffy, and realise my beaten egg whites didn’t look anything like those in the video. Major #fail.

Anyway, my kuih lapis looks like a disaster, hence no pixs. But it tasted really delicious and moist. In the hands of an able baker, that recipe will work beautifully.

Anyway, I adjusted my confidence level and decided to try something easier last weekend… which means no kuih (because I have yet to recover from my kuih kosui attempts) and no baking.

So, I chose Marina’s family favourite – Daging Masak Kicap – a kinda Malay-style beef stew. I liked it because it used kicap manis, which I love. The recipe specifies salty soy sauce _ I wasn’t sure if that meant light or thick soy sauce, so I use a tablespoon of each.

I love the aroma of this stew – the house smelt of star anise, clove and cardamon. The stew was easy to make; basically it was just putting everything into the pot, and boiling them slowly. I also used carrots even though it wasn’t in the recipe because I had some in the fridge.

We usually have pork in soya sauce, which is thick soya sauce with garlic and white pepper, so this beef stew was a good variation. It’s a good dish to serve to children too, as there is potato and it’s not spicy. What I like most is how aromatic this stew is.

Marina’s book can be found at Popular Bookstore, and other leading book shops.

For more of Marina’s recipes, go to her page ”Cooking With Marina Mustafa” on Facebook, or visit her blog http://cookingwithmarina mustafa.vox.com.

RECIPE

DAGING MASAK KICAP

Ingredients

1kg lean beef, cubed
2 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
8 cardamons
2 star anise
2 potatoes (deskinned, cut into 4)
2 tomatoes (cut into 4 wedges)
1 cup sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp salty soy sauce
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Blend

10 bulbs shallots
6 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger

Boil the water in a pot, together with the blended ingredients and spices.
As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat and put in the beef. Cook for 30 minutes, covered.
Add the potatoes.
Pour in both the soy sauces and the seasoning.
When the potatoes have cooked, and the beef tender, put in the tomatoes. Turn off the heat.
Eat with hot rice when ready. Perfect if eaten with your fingers!

Bok Choy With Oyster Sauce

April 8, 2010

Some weeks feel longer than others, and I just want to do nothing on weekends. On those days, I just want to make something reassuringly easy that I know will turn out well.
This was how I first learnt to cook my green vegetables. It didn’t involve the theatrics of stir-frying, and was just perfect for our student day makeshift kitchen that consisted of a hotplate.
There really is no recipe. It’s essentially blanched green vegetables with crispy fried shallots and fried garlic, topped with a dollop of oyster sauce. The crispy fried shallots are really optional, fried garlic lends enough aroma to this dish.

Instructions

Chop garlic and slice shallots (if using), and sautee in a little oil over medium heat. Stir from time to time to make sure they don’t burn.
Set aside when they start to brown.
Meanwhile, wash the vegetables and blanch quickly in boiling water. Toss.
Arrange the vegetables on a plate, and garnish with the fried garlic and shallot.
Add a tablespoon of oyster sauce, and toss everything together.

It’s also a healthy dish, and it’s nice to eat crisp green vegetables that are simply prepared. It’s also real quick to make. You can also make more of the garlic and shallot oil, and keep to use another time.

Home-style Hokkien Stir Fried Noodles

April 4, 2010

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Most Chinese in Malaysia originate from Southern China. In Penang and Malacca, the Chinese are mainly from Fujian, and the dialect spoken is Hokkien. Although the Hokkiens is one of the most prominent groups, their cuisine is not so commonly found outside homes, as compared to Cantonese food.

One of the reasons is that Hokkien food is simple home fares. The one restaurant that specialises in Hokkien cuisine is Ang Hoay Lor in Penang. It’s an old restaurant, and their specialties include bak ki mi sua (vermicelli soup with the softest meat coated in starch flour), leek stirfried with tofu, oyster omelette and of course Hokkien char (stir fried Hokkien noodles).

Hokkien mee (noodles) means different things in different parts of Malaysia. In Penang, Hokkien Mee is prawn noodles but elsewhere in Malaysia it refers to big fat yellow noodles stir fried with thick soy sauce and garnished with pork lard bits (like croutons), prawns and pork liver. My current favourite is the one served up at Reunion restaurant in Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur.

Then, there is Hokkien Char, which is commonly found in Penang but not elsewhere. Hokkien Char is yellow noodles stirfried with prawns, liver, choy sam (sawi) with a little thickened gravy, and garnished with fried shallots.

Then, there is the home-style version of Hokkien noodles, such as the one served in Ang Hoay Lor restaurant and in homes. It’s just plain stir-fried noodles – yellow noodles stirfried with a little garlic and flavoured with light soy sauce, and garnished with meat, seafood and some greens.

Most everybody knows how to make these stir-fried noodles, and we mostly use whatever is available in the kitchen to make this – anything from pork to cuttlefish. It’s nice to add mushrooms and carrots too.

For me, this dish is elevated from plain to delicious with some sprinkling of fried shallots, and most importantly an accompaniment of sambal belacan (red chillies pounded with toasted belacan (shrimp paste)).

We cook these noodles mostly for breakfast, or when we need to cook something quick to feed lots of people. I hate to admit it, but this noodle dish is one of those home-style dishes that we often take for granted.

I tried ordering it at one of those stir-frying food stalls in KL one day, and realised that there isn’t even a proper name for it. I can’t call it Hokkien Mee or Fukien Chow because that refers to the fat noodles in black sauce, and my Cantonese is too elementary for me to describe what I want.

So, I guess the next best thing to do it to cook it myself.

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Stir Fried Hokkien Noodles

Recipe
(Serves 4)

1 cup of cooking oil
6-8 shallots, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
10-15 prawns, remove shells
4-5 squids, cleaned and sliced
8-10 slices of either chicken, or pork
2-3 dried mushrooms, reconstituted in some water and cut coarsely
1/2 carrot, sliced
2-3 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/1/2 teaspoon of MSG, optional
2 cup water
500g yellow noodles
100g bean sprouts
2-3 stalks of choy sam, cut coarsely

Heat the cooking oil, and saute the sliced shallots over a medium fire till fragrant and crisp. Keep stirring, and watch that it does not burn.
Set aside.
(Fried shallots is optional, but it does enhance the taste of the noodles).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil from frying the shallot. Saute the garlic till fragrant, and then add the prawns, squids, and meat. Saute over high heat, stirring till the prawns turn pink. Lower the heat to medium, and add the mushrooms and carrot.
Season with the light soy sauce, white pepper and MSG. Stir to mix together, and add water.
Let it simmer, and add the noodles, bean sprouts and choy sam.
Stir it all together, and taste. Season with more soya sauce or salt to suit your taste. Let the noodles simmer for a few minutes, and serve.
Garnish with the fried shallots.
Serve with sambal belacan, or cut red chillies in soya sauce.

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Lazy Days – Mushroom Soup

March 28, 2010

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By right, I should make a list every time I go grocery shopping. Instead, I walk down every aisle in the supermarket, and pick up 25 things I think I might need, like a can of chickpeas or coriander seeds. Then, they languish  in the larder, forgotten.

But then again, I always have the best of intentions. I buy chickpeas thinking that I’ll be making hummus and coriander seeds to make kurma.

Two weekends ago, I was at Bangsar Village Grocer and I bought a big container of mixed mushrooms (white mushrooms, brown mushrooms and oyster mushroom). I haven’t bought mushrooms in awhile, and could think of half a dozen recipes I could try out.

But two weeks later, those mushrooms were still sitting pretty in the fridge -but certainly not for much longer. They cost too much for me to continue ignoring them, so I took them out of the fridge. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I thought I should start doing something anyway. So, I cleaned them, and cut them up, and waited for inspiration to hit me.

mushroom

I ended up cooking a quick bacon and mushroom cream sauce spaghetti with chilli padi, but there was still lots of mushrooms left. I stuck them back into the fridge. It was just one of those days when I couldn’t face up to a sinkful of dishes.

The next day, I took out those mushrooms, and contemplated making a mushroom and bacon quiche; but only for two seconds. I ended up making the easiest thing I could think of – soup.

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When it comes to making soup, I don’t follow a recipe.

I sauteed two cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil, threw in the sliced mushrooms and stir them around for a few minutes till they are soft and aromatic. Then, I pour in the cream, and some milk – enough to cover the mushrooms.

I then blitz the soup with a hand blender, and season with salt and pepper. If you think that the soup is too thick, add milk. If you think it’s too thin, boil the soup a little longer over a slow flame to reduce it, or add more cream.

The best thing about this mushroom soup is that it’s also easy to eat. I just cut up some baguette slices, and dunk them into the soup. Makes for a nice breakfast on weekdays, and tastes so much better than canned soup.

Lor Bak at Kheng Pin

March 24, 2010

The best lor bak – slivers of meat lightly seasoned with five-spice powder, wrapped in bean-curd sheet and deep-fried – are usually found in home kitchens, rather than in stalls and restaurants.

There is an art to marinating the meat just right, and hawkers do not really bother with using the most tender cut of meat or garnish their rolls with vegetables like leek or yam bean or taro for the play of textures and tastes.

But at Kheng Pin coffee shop at the Penang Road- Jalan Sri Bahari junction, Georgetown, Penang, the hawker’s lor bak offering is exceptionally good. Lou Joo Chon has been frying up these treats for 38 years now, and still takes pride and pleasure in his customers’ praises and positive feedbacks.

The affable man is amiable and chats easily with customers, but not during the lunch peak hours. Then, he wouldn’t even have the time or patience to wait for customers to make their selections – he’d just suggest a mixed plate.

There are many lor bak stalls, and they offer all kinds of everything (like frozen crabstick and sausage) wrapped up in beancurd skin and deep-fried. But at Kheng Pin, Lou stays true to the old favourites – lor bak, prawn fritters, and tofu. There is also fish rolls, deep-fried squids and century eggs, as well as root vegetables dipped in batter.

The meat in his lor bak is soft and tender, and delicately flavoured. It’s also wrapped in only a layer of skin, so the meat is encased in a thin crispy wrapping. The roll is also made thin enough so that the meat cooks quickly, which results in a non-greasy skin.

The secret also lies in Lou’s expert frying. No matter how busy he gets, the fire is not set to a roaring high, but at just the right temperature so that the food is fried without the oil seeping through to the food.

Lou turns and prods at his morsels in his age-worn vat of oil till they are done right, and then he drains them in a wire basket.

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I also absolutely love Lou’s prawn fritters. Most people make prawn fritters with one or two medium prawns dipped in batter, but the version here is different. Your every bite will be rewarded with a mouthful of crunchy small prawns. The batter is thin, enough to hold the prawns together and is crunchy rather than dough-y.

But what I also really appreciate with old hawkers like Lou is their dedication to the small touches that makes all the difference. He serves his delicious morsels with his home-made chilli sauce and thick soy sauce gravy. Most hawkers use bottled chilli sauce, but Lou cooks his own chilli sauce which is sweetish and delicious.

He also still provides small metal forks to spear the lorbak and fritters, which are accompanied by slices of cool cucumber.

And that’s why I love going to Kheng Pin for breakfast; where else can you start the day with lor bak, prawn fritters, tofu and century eggs.

The corner lot coffee shop is also open and airy, and they still have the old-style booth seats. I like the kopi-o, and Ceylon tea with milk, and pat poh peng (herbal drink) here too.

The other good eat in Kheng Pin is the wantan mee here. It used to be run by two white-haired brothers, but they have not been there for ten years already. The stall is now run by a husband and wife team, and the latter used to work at the other famous wantan mi stall in Lebuh Cina.

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I love my wantan mee not with egg noodles, but with slippery flat rice noodles (tua pan) that slithers down the throat. The soya sauce gravy is flavoured with rendered pork lard, which lends its distinctive aroma and lusciousness that’s worth getting your arteries clogged up (I am saying that with reverence, k, not impertinence, so please don’t punish me God of Coronary).

The Hainanese chicken rice stall here also enjoys a good reputation, but I have never tried it.

Lou said the coffee shop will close for a week in Mac  because they are all going to China for a holiday – company trips make for happy hawkers and good food! When we spoke to him, the holiday date has not been confirmed.

Even when the coffee shop is open, there are times when Lou won’t be there. Chances are he is at some hotel somewhere in Singapore participating in their Penang Food Week. Yeah, he is an internationally-recognised celebrity chef.

Kheng Pin is at 80, Penang Road (near the Chulia Street end), Georgetown, Penang. It opens from 7am-3pm, and closes on Monday.

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Living Dangerously – Stir-fried Roast Pork

March 18, 2010

I am a Penangite, but I only recently found out about Kedai Makanan Teik Seng (on Jalan Carnavon, next to the old Hup Loong provision shop). It’s a popular `chu char’ place where you can order rice and dishes. We’ve never eaten here simply because they serve dishes that we eat at home all the time. After all, eating out used to be an indulgence and we’d only order food that my mother couldn’t make.

At Teik Seng, they serve good ol’ fashioned simple fares like leek stir fried with tofu, steamed eggs, lala stir-fried with ginger and yellow bean paste, bittergourd with salted duck’s eggs. They also do a delicious sting ray asam curry, and double-boiled soup, and claypot dishes. We also spied butter prawns on another table.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce

But it seems that the star dish at Teik Seng is roast pork stir-fried with soya sauce. Eating Asia was raving about it, and they call it bacon candy. We ordered that too, and my colleagues (from Kuala Lumpur) Niki Cheong, Ian Yee and Sharmila Nair voted that the best dish on the table.

We actually ate at Teik Seng two days in a row, and tried the stir-fried roast pork with cili padi. It was good too, with the cili padi adding a subtle kick.

I was a little less fascinated…mostly because we have this dish at home quite often although I must admit that the version here is really good because they use a lot of oil. So, it’s almost like they shallow fry the roast pork in soya sauce.

One of the must-have prayer offerings on occassions such as death anniversaries are roast pork and chicken. And this is what many people do with leftover roast pork, especially during prayer days when there is too much food.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce

We love roast pork, but it’s quite impossible to finish eating it especially when there will usually be six to eight other dishes. So, my mother would stir-fry the roast pork with garlic, thick soya sauce and a dash of sugar. It becomes quite a different dish, as the roast pork would be coated with caramelised soya sauce, and stir-frying retains the crispiness of the crackling. I like it with plain hot porridge, and it’s also good for picking on (yeah, like a snack).

Then again, when it comes to roast pork, living dangerously is the way to go. After all, it’s the ultimate indulgent breakfast food – on Sunday mornings, I know of people (some of whom live in my house) who would order roast pork to munch on or to add on to their noodles.

Stir fried roast pork with soya sauce

ROAST PORK STIR-FRIED WITH SOYA SAUCE

1 tablespoon cooking oil
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
600g roast pork, sliced thinly
2 tablespoon thick soya sauce
salt and sugar, according to taste
(I like about 2 tablespoons of sugar because I like it a little sweet)

Heat cooking oil, and saute garlic.
Increase the heat, and throw in the roast pork. Add the thick soya sauce, and fry quickly so that the roast pork are coated evenly.
Then, add salt and sugar.
Stir quickly over high heat, less than a minute.

Note: Add more oil if you want the roast pork to be more caramelised.
It’s an aromatic dish, and experienced cooks can tell just from the smell if there is enough soya sauce or sugar.