Category Archives: Recipes – Bread & Breakfast

Congee (rice porridge: 白粥) with pork and salted egg


Congee

Congee

Congee

Congee

(mum’s version always has dried scallops for added sweetness)

Congee

Congee

Congee and fried dough. 白粥油炸鬼

The story behind this dish speaks to one of the foundational dishes of the Chinese culture, which is my heritage.

Congee (pronounced as ‘jook’ in Cantonese), is jasmine rice boiled down till soft, much like porridge. There used to be a shop selling congee at every Hong Kong street, and the good ones will have queues from early in the morning.

A good Hong Kong style congee can be described as creamy with a consistency similar to a thick soup. It should neither be runny or gloopy. There is a good amount of water, yet it isn’t watery. The grains should have broken down and not be wholly visible.

This can be eaten as any meal of the day, and is our go-to when we feel under the weather or needing a bit of a detox after big meals.

The variation to the congee is in the food you add to it. Mince, chicken, squid, dried scallops, fish and fried dough… Whatever you like.

My favourite is a very simple salted pork shoulder. The pork shoulder is marinated with a generous amount of salt and Chinese wine and this is cooked in the rice congee. When it’s done, the meat is pulled apart and eaten with condiments all mixed in with the congee.

This is what my mum cooks for me whenever I was sick, whenever we’ve returned home from our travels. Since I have lived apart from my parents for the last 20ish years, it’s a dish that always reminds me of her loving care. It’s also a meal that my NZ-born daughter loves and I hope she will one day master it. Ironically it only took a week-long hospital stay for me to finally write this recipe down…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 jasmine or long grain rice
  • 6 cups of water (more to adjust thickness)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • (or for a quick version, use left over cooked rice that has been frozen)
  • 400g pork shoulder
  • 1 tbsp chinese shaoxing wine
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 8 cups of water

Toppings

  • Fried shallots
  • Spring onions
  • Fried dough 油炸鬼
  • Crispy fish skin
  • Seaweed paste (Japanese)
  • Salted egg 咸蛋(see recipe at the end. Duck eggs is traditionally used, but substitute with chicken eggs if you can’t find duck eggs. )
  • Preserved egg 皮蛋(preserved with a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quick lime and rice hulls for several weeks.)

Instructions

  1. Marinade meat with chinese wine and salt over night.
  2. Rinse rice and drain slightly. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle the salt over rice grains and mix in oil. Add just enough water to cover the grains. Set aside for 20 mins. This helps the grains break down faster and congee will later cook quicker (reach the right creaminess faster).
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soaked rice, which should have developed cracked lines along the grains, into the boiling water.
  4. Keep it at a rolling boil for 10 minutes, stiring often. Turn it down to a medium boil, and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. The rice grains should have puffed up and slightly broken down by now.
  5. Add the meat, and let it simmer for 1.5 hours. Remember to stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom (this is easier if you have a thermos cooker or crock pot, where it keeps the hot temperature of the pot inside another capsule, so that the food continues to cook without needing to stand by the stove).
  6. Check for creaminess often, adding water if it becomes too thick.
  7. Remove pork and shred to small pieces. Set aside.
  8. Place ladles of hot congee into bowls, add shredded pork and serve with toppings.
  9. If you want to have other protein like beef slices, chicken thigh pieces, fish or squid: instead of the shredded pork, you can cook your protein towards the end. I usually have a second pot ready and when the big pot of plain congee is ready, I will scooop half of that into the second pot and cook the meat in it. That way I will always have some plain congee as the base for a second flavour.

To make Salted eggs:

  1. First find a jar that will fill 8 eggs.
  2. Remove the eggs and fill the jar with water half way.
  3. Pour the water in a pan and add enough salt to make a saturated salt solution i.e. Where it has so much salt dissolved in, it can’t dissolve anymore. That’s when you see salt crystals still appear with lots of mixing. You may need 500g salt at least.
  4. Warm the salt solution up on the stove, with 2 tea bags and 3 tbsp of shaoxing wine. Let it cool.
  5. Place eggs into jar and pour the cooled salt solution in. Make sure eggs are completely submerged with liquid and doesn’t float up. You may have to put a small plate in the hold the eggs down. Close lid and place in a dark corner or the pantry for 30 to 40 days.
  6. Cook by boiling the eggs in hot water for 8 minutes. Shell and serve with congee.
  7. The salted yolk can be used to make the glutinous wrapped parcels too.

Spring onion pancakes


Chinese Spring onion pancakes 葱油餠

Sometimes we just crave simple food that brings back memories. For a simple meal, we often make rice congee and have stir fry noodles with it. The rice congee would take some time to prepare, in order for the rice grains to break down enough to be creamy. While that’s going, I can also prepare Spring Onion pancakes to go with the meal. They do not resemble the western pancakes though, as these are not light or fluffy. Instead, they are chewy and most definitely savoury in taste (you can also make sweet versions with red bean paste filling, another stunner!).

By bringing back this oldie, I’m creating memories with my daughter too. J loves rolling these out, and have recently discovered via the Woks of Life a shortcut to these crispy delights: using round store-bought wonton pastry, create 6 layer stacks of pastry, oil, salt and spring onions. Roll these out and pan fry on a dry pan. Super quick and I hope that she will remember these and make them in the future, be it traditional way or the shortcut!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil for the pancakes
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • Rice bran oil for the pan

Dough Instructions

  1. Mix flour with water until it forms a smooth dough. Knead by doubling the dough over and pressing it down repeatedly, until the dough is shiny, smooth and very elastic. Coat this ball of dough lightly in oil and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  2. Finely chop the spring onion. (I use both the green tops and the white parts.) Set them on your work surface along with a small bowl of salt.
  3. Time to roll out the dough – Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out one part of the dough on the board. Roll until it is a thin rectangle at least 20 x 15 cm.
  4. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with sesame oil, then sprinkle it evenly with chopped spring onions and salt.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  5. Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly, creating one long log of rolled-up dough.
  6. Cut the dough log into two equal parts.
  7. Take one of these halves, coil into a round dough disc. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes and ideally longer, while you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  8. With you hands, press down a rolled dough disc into a flat, smooth, round pancake. Flatten it further by rolling with a rolling pin.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  9. Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  10. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Place the pancake dough in the dry pan and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  11. Flip the pancake over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the pancake dough rolls.

To Serve
Cut the pancake into wedges with a sharp knife, and serve immediately. Serve with your usual dumpling sauce (soy and vinegar).

Recipe Notes
Oils: This recipe calls for oil in two different places: Once to make the filling, and once to fry the pancakes. For the filling, any neutral oil will do, but tasters (and I!) prefer sesame oil.

Make-Ahead Tip: If you would like to make a few pancakes but save the rest for later, you can save the dough in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer. Just make sure the dough is oiled and well-covered. You can also roll out individual pancakes and stack them between well-oiled layers of baking paper.

Chinese Spring onion pancakes 葱油餠

Swedish seed cracker “KNÄCKEBRÖD”


knäckebröd – literally knäcke to break and bröd, bread.

I have them for breakfast with butter, tomato, cottage cheese and loads of pepper. I can totally see these on the next party platter with the best Chicken and Sage Terrine by L’authentic, smoked salmon or salmon gravlax and cream cheese. That’s if I manage to keep some for home after my husband tried them and said he’s taking them to work! They are so easy to make and so easy to make flavour variety too.

This version takes a bit longer to make (baking time) compared to another recipe I sometimes make, without oats and less water. I prefer this one more, as it creates crackers with less uniformity and texture, giving it more personality.

Ingredients
  • 220 g flour
  • 220 g rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 100 g sunflower seeds
  • 100 g sesame seeds
  • 75 g chia seeds
  • 70 g pumpkin seeds
  • 700 ml water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Cumin seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 130C.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and add the liquids. It should have a porridge-like consistency.
  3. Line 3 cookie sheets with baking paper and pour the mixture onto the sheets.
  4. With a large spoon, spread the mixture as thin as possible (like 2-3mm) and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove sheets from oven and slide the baking paper onto a chopping board. Cut each sheet of cracker into rectangular pieces – small cracker size (for dipping) or larger rectangles (for serving). Having different sizes are good! Put back in the oven and bake for 1-2 hours until they are golden and crisp.

Crunchy and fluffy Belgian waffles


Crunchy and fluffy belgian waffles. Square presentation with fruit and yoghurt

These are by far the crunchiest waffles I have ever made.

The key was the yeast and also the prolonged rising time – resulting in a crisp surface and fluffy centre. They stayed crunchy for a long time too. Perfect for freezing and reheating in the toaster. This portion is good for making 6 large square waffles. Serves 12.

DSCF3937 by michtsang

DSCF3937, a photo by michtsang on Flickr.

Ingredients
3 cups lukewarm milk
12 tablespoons butter (about 120g), melted
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
4 large eggs
4 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 cup milk extra

Directions

1. Combine the milk, butter, maple syrup, salt and vanilla paste in a mixer; whisk on a medium speed and add the eggs in one by one. Add in the sifted flour and yeast, whisk until combined. Lumps are fine.

20140314-080529.jpg

2. Pour it into a large tall plastic box, leaving room for expansion; the mixture will bubble and grow.

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3. Slightly cover with plastic wrap or the lid of the box and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour; the mixture will begin to bubble. Make sure the box you are using is big enough – I used a box that allows for the mixture to triple in size 😅.

4. You can cook the waffles at this point, or leave it out for another 2 hours and then refrigerate the batter overnight (covered tightly) to cook waffles the next day. They will be extra crunchy this way.

5. Just before you are ready to cook it, check the consistency of the batter. If it is very thick, add the extra 1/2 cup of milk and mix.

6. Preheat your waffle iron. I used a nordicware iron so that means heating it on the stove top. Spray with non-stick vegetable oil spray, and pour 1 cup batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer) onto the center of the iron, making sure it covers all spaces. Close the lid and flip over, cooking this side for at least 2 minutes until this side of the waffle is golden brown. Flip over to the other side, and cook for a similar amount of time. It took me 5 to 6 minutes for each waffle to cook.

7. Adjust the heat if it is browning your waffles too quickly. I maintained mine on a medium-high power.

8. Place on a wire rack with lots of airing space below, and leave it to cool slightly.

9. Serve with chocolate sauce or maple syrup, if desired.

Crunchy and fluffy belgian waffles. Square presentation with fruit and yoghurt
10. Perfect to freeze and reheat in a toaster when the moment of yearning for a crunchy waffle arrives.

Yield: about 6 Belgian-style (deep-pocket) square waffles.

DSCF3938

Authentic Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich recipe


On our recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, we came across many bakeries and stores selling traditional Vietnamese sandwiches – Bánh Mì. These are the result of French and Vietnamese cuisines coming together, and boy, what a glorious effort.

Bánh mì sandwiches are different to the normal western sandwiches. The bread is crunchy on the outside and pillowy inside, serving as a light encasement for the delicious fillings inside. More on that later.

While watching our sandwiches being made, I duly noted what was included – the ingredients all play a part in achieving the balance of sweet, sour, savoury, spicy, umami, warm, cold, softness and crunch. That’s a lot achieved in one sandwich.

Here are the list of ingredients for you to create your very own bánh mì!

    • Bread – choose a light bread with pillowy centre and light crusty crumb. (J’s wanted to make sure I mention not to get bread that is so crunchy that it scrapes the roof of your mouth. Coz that will hurt. Noted, darling 😊) Baguettes or Ficelle from Paneton French Bakery would be my choice (in New Zealand).
    • Mayo – adds a creamy flavour to the sandwich.
    • Pate – this is essential to any good Bánh Mì, giving it the umami flavour.
    • Cucumber – Cucumber adds freshness and crunch, juxtaposing the other soft elements of the sandwich. Slice them lengthwise for even layering.
    • Herbs – for freshness and an earthiness, coriander leaves and sliced spring onions are added. I would also suggest Thai basil as well, if you wish.

    • Pickles – this is a must! Easy to make: 1:1.5 ratio of white or apple cider vinegar to caster sugar to fill to just over half of a glass jar. Warm jar and sugar slightly in microwave to dissolve the sugar. While it is cooling, sprinkle a bit of salt over thin batons of carrots/daikon/rings of onions. Massage and squeeze the carrots the diakon (no need for the onions) to get rid of their juices. Pat dry and add to the cooled jar of pickling liquid. Ready to use in just an hour.

  • Protein – you have lots of choices here: vietnamese ham, lemongrass pork or beef, grilled pork, chinese BBQ pork, chinese roast pork or even grilled tofu. Champagne ham works too if there is nothing else!

  • Sauce – You can add squirts of hoisin sauce or Maggi Seasoning for extra flavour. For me, a good grind of black pepper was enough.
  • Fresh Red Chillies – a spicy element is a must and thinly sliced red chillies are commonly added to taste.
  • Fried shallots for extra crunch.
  • Add more meat if you wish.
  • Close the sandwich and enjoy!