Chicken soup for the soul

10 Apr

For those who came to this blog, and found there is no update, I AM SORRY! After the Chinese New Year, work and school just start to pile. But I finally completed my course and got my certificate. Hooray! Hopefully this also means my schedule will be back to normal soon.

For the past three months, I barely cook. Even if I do, it is simple, fill-up-the-tummy kind of grub. I was craving for chicken soup for a very long time. My friend, C and B, insisted that homemade chicken soup is the best. Me, being a lazy bugger and a supporter of instant stock, just couldn’t get my act together. But miracles do happen. I went to the supermarket and bought a chicken.

There are many ways to prepare chicken stock. My method is a combination of eastern and western style. The big difference between homemade and instant is that the latter has a stronger, more intense flavour. The former is lighter and very drinkable. The portion I made is quite small, you can double the recipe and freeze any leftover.

Chicken stock

Makes 1.5 litres of stock

Ingredients
-        One whole (cleaned) chicken carcass* (I like to use Sakura chicken which is available via NTUC)
-        One piece of chicken breast (optional)
-        One small onion, thinly slice
-        One small carrot, ¼” thick dice (½ cup of diced carrots)
-        One small leek, ¼” thick slice (¼ cup of sliced leeks)
-        200g enoki mushrooms, trim the ends off and separate (optional)
-        2 litres of hot (filtered) water
-        2 dried bay leaves
-        1 sprig of thyme
-        ½ lemon (optional)
-        2 teaspoons vegetable oil
-        Salt and black pepper

Methods
-        Place the chicken carcass and chicken breast (if using) in a large pot and cover it with cold water (you can use normal tap water for this stage). Place the pot over medium-high heat. Once the water starts to boil, and scum begins to form at the edge of the pot, remove the pot from heat.
-        Remove the chicken carcass and chicken breast (if using) and place it on a plate. Set aside. Drain the water from the pot.
-        Shred the chicken breast into small pieces and place it on a plate (where the chicken carcass is) and set aside.
-        Using the same pot, add in the vegetable oil and place it over low-medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add in the onion, bay leaves and thyme, and gently sweat the onion. Stir the pot occasionally. This is to gently soften the onion. If you notice that the onions are starting to brown, you can add in a few teaspoons of water to stop the browning.
-        Once the onion is soften, add in the carrots and leeks and continue to cook them for 5 minutes. At this stage, you can season the vegetables with a good sprinkle of salt.
-        As the vegetables start to soften, add in the chicken carcass and the hot water, and reduce the heat to low. Let the stock simmer for at least 30 minutes.
-        While the stock is simmering, remove any excess scum and oil with a ladle or a skimming spoon.
-        Taste the stock and add in salt and pepper.
-        At the last 15 minutes of cooking, add in the lemon if using.
-        Before turning the heat off, using a pair of tongs or chopsticks, squeeze the lemon. Remove the chicken carcass, bay leaves and thyme. Taste and season accordingly.
-        If you are using the stock for risotto or any dishes, there is no need to add in enoki mushroom and chicken breast. Pass the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and use the stock accordingly. Any leftover stock can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month
-        To transform the stock to chicken soup, add in the enoki mushroom and shredded chicken breast at the last 15 minutes of cooking. To bulk up the chicken soup, you can add in cooked lentils or pasta.

*If you do not want to buy a whole chicken, you can keep the bones from leftover roast chicken. You can also buy chicken carcass from both wet market and supermarket.

Afternoon tea at Pollen

23 Jan

Hello! This slacker here finally woken up from her food coma and resumes her writing. It has been a filling and delicious few months, and I cannot believe it’s 2014! I ate so much and I am amazed that my stomach has yet to explode.

The savoury platter

My friend, Evie was back for her year-end holidays, and I suggested tea at Pollen for some catching-up. Unlike the hotels, Pollen’s afternoon tea menu was rather small. However every item that is served to you is well planned and paired beautifully. We were given a platter savoury and sweet treats.

Evie and I started with the bread basket of toasted sourdough and cod branade. At a glance, the cod branade looked tasteless – it was not fishy, and it was creamy with a slight hint of saltiness. We finished our bread and cod branade in rapid speed and were horrified when we discovered the table next to us did not finish theirs.

Beautiful Scotch eggs

For the savoury items, we had Scotch eggs with piccalilli relish, and seared beef with zucchini relish and onion brioche. Though the Scotch eggs did not have the traditional minced meat encasing the egg, the latter was cooked perfectly with a runny yolk. Paired with the cauliflower piccalilli relish which was pungent and sharp, it was a delight to put this small bite in my mouth (and this coming from someone who don’t like eggs).

For the seared beef, it was cooked to medium rare hence the meat was not chewy. I prised open the onion brioche, and filled it with slices of beef and zucchini relish, and ate it like a sandwich. It was awesome. I definitely have no making of a dainty tai-tai. The tartness from the relish cut through the richness of the beef and brioche. And I almost did an “Oliver Twist” and ask for more.

The sweet treats

Personally, I think the sweet did not fare as well as the savoury. There were some hits and misses. My favourite on the platter was the éclair with fresh strawberry and cream. Though Evie found the strawberry to be rather sour, I quite liked it as it was refreshing amongst the thick, luscious cream. The choux pastry was crisp without being dry.

My favourite éclair

On the platter, we also had an orange and cranberry scone, macarons and a banana tea cake. The scone was beautifully scented with orange but it was way too big. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it. The banana tea cake was not too bad but I don’t fancy the buttercream on top which was a tad heavy. And the cake itself was also a bit stodgy. The macarons we had that day was raspberry and chocolate, and lime and coconut. They were quite well made and the flavours complemented each other.

Pollen’s afternoon tea looked little, but seriously how much can one eat. It is not a competition to see how many open sandwiches you can eat. It is about a comfortable space, where one can chat with friends and enjoy some delicious afternoon delights.

Pollen
Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Afternoon tea starts from 3pm – 5pm, daily
+65-66049988

Finally rolling out of the cave

21 Nov

Obsessed with a perfectly round egg (homework at the back)

It has been awhile since I made my presence felt in World Wide Web. It has been crazy for the past two months. Since September, I have (work) projects to be completed by early November. Once those are completed, I helped a friend with a photoshoot for a week (which was very fun and tiring at the same time). Oh did I mention that the cookbook that I helped to do recipe testing was launched? Quickly go buy the book, my picture is in there too!

And to top it off, I signed up for an online course. Yes, sometimes I do wonder what is wrong with my brain. Anyway, I finally got my schedule sort of settled. Hopefully I can share with you all some of the deliciousness that I have been doing and eating before Christmas madness starts! So stay tune!

p/s: On a different note, my wonderful foodie pals Juji Chews and The Food Pornographer wrote some great articles about food blogging, ethics and sponsorship which I think are worth a read. My view is short and simple. There is nothing wrong with sponsorship as long as I don’t abuse the opportunity. Most importantly, I must be able to write what I want and standby what I have written.

I cooked my first plate of Pad Thai

18 Sep

When it comes to Thai food, I always rely on bottled pastes (McCormick used to make the best Thai green curry paste) and Nakhon Kitchen which is opposite my house. It has never crossed my mind to cook Thai food at home.

As the queue at Nakhon Kitchen gets ridiculously long (at all times), I decided it is time I learn more about Thai cuisine. I started with the simple and basic Pad Thai. Pad Thai is essentially a quick stir-fry rice noodles dish. When I was in university, I would buy those Pad Thai mix from the supermarket. I remembered the sauce was thick, dark and sticky. The finished product was a heavily sauced noodles.

A good Pad Thai should embody spiceness (chilli powder), sourness (tamarind), sweetness (palm sugar) and saltiness (fish sauce). The end result is a flavourful, substantial plate of noodles. I also did my research on Pad Thai, and realised everyone has their own version for the sauce, preparation of the noodles and so on. The first time I cooked Pad Thai, I felt it was lacking acidity. I made some adjustments and was quite happy with my second attempt. I am glad that Pad Thai has made it into my small repertoire of dishes that I know how to cook.

Pad Thai
(Adapted from David Thompson’s Thai Street Food)

Serves 2

Ingredients
1)      100g dried thin rice noodles (rice sticks)
2)      4 shallots, coarsely chopped with a pinch of salt
3)      2 eggs, cracked and whisked
4)      3 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
5)      ½ teaspoon chye poh, rinsed and dried (salted radish)
6)      100g firm beancurd, cut into small squares (I like to use Unicurd tau kwa that is specifically for tahu goreng)
7)      10 shelled prawns (optional; if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, omit them)
8)      A handful Chinese chives or ku chye (around 4 stalks), cut into 1” length
9)      A small handful cashew nuts, roasted, and coarsely chopped
10)   1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)
11)   Chilli powder (optional)

Sauce
1)      2 tablespoons brown sugar
2)      2 tablespoons tamarind water*
3)      1 tablespoon fish sauce (if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, use soya sauce)
4)      Dash of white vinegar
5)      1-2 tablespoons of water

Methods
-        In a large bowl, soak the dried rice noodles in cold water for about 15 minutes or until they have soften (make sure the noodles are completely covered in water).
-        While the noodles are soaking, you can start to prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, tamarind water, vinegar, fish sauce (or soya sauce) and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Mix until the sugar has dissolved and taste. The sauce should be balanced. If need to, adjust the flavour accordingly – sweetness (sugar), saltiness (fish sauce/ soya sauce), and sourness (vinegar or tamarind water). Set aside.
-        Once the noodles starts to soften, bring a pot of water to boil.
-        Drain the noodles and add them in the pot of boiling water for less than a minute. The noodles should have firmness, and not mushy. Once cooked, drain the noodles and set aside. This will help to prevent the noodles from clumping when being stir-fried.
-        Place a wok over a medium heat. Add in the oil and let it heat up. Once the oil is heated, add in the shallots and fry them until they soften, coloured and develop fragrance. Once the shallots are soften, add in the prawns (if using).
-        Once the prawns are added, pour in the eggs. Like cooking an omelette, tilt the wok and using a spatula, push the egg inwards so that the egg that is seated inside will be moved and get cooked.
-        While the egg is still runny, increase the heat to medium-high, and add in the drained noodles. Fry for about 30 seconds and at the same time, break the eggs using the spatula. Add in the sauce, and fry the noodles to ensure the sauce is evenly distributed.
-        Once the sauce is absorbed by the noodles (it should take less than a minute), add in the beancurd, chye poh and ¾ of the cashew nuts, and continue to fry the noodles until it is almost dry. At that stage, add in the Chinese chye and fry for a few seconds.
-        To serve, divide the Pad Thai into 2 plates and garnish with the remainder cashew nuts, roasted chilli powder and lime wedges.

*To obtain tamarind water, you will need 2 tablespoons of tamarind pulp and 2 tablespoons of warm water. This should yield around 3 tablespoons of tamarind water. Before mixing the tamarind pulp in the water, rinse the pulp to remove any surface yeast. Once rinsed, mix the tamarind pulp with the water and let it soak for a few minutes. Once the pulp is soften, using a spoon, smash the pulp so that it dissolves in the water. Pass the mixture through a sift, and using the same spoon, squeeze out as much juice as possible. Don’t be terribly worried if the tamarind water is rather thick, you can easily dilute it with water. Any leftover tamarind water can be kept in an airtight container and place in the fridge for 2 days.

A welcome surprise: Penang Delights

11 Sep

Ang Mo Kio was my childhood playground. Papa Ng used to own a men’s garment factory in Ang Mo Kio. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time at the factory, doing menial tasks like trimming the thread from the shirt’s sleeves, folding and packing them into boxes. My primary and secondary schools were in Ang Mo Kio too. Back then, the A&W near the library was my favourite place (hello coney dog). Since Papa Ng closed down his factory, there was little or no reason for me to go back to Ang Mo Kio.

Recently, I needed some craft material for a friend’s birthday present which prompted me to Elsie Departmental Store in Ang Mo Kio. Elsie Departmental Store has been around for as long as I can remember. It has faithfully supplied me with material for my primary and secondary school projects. Stepping into Elsie, you will be welcomed by sights of pom pom tissue cover, framed cross stitch work and a table full of women(and sometimes men) crocheting and knitting. This place is old school and grouchy friendly (the owners’ faces look stern but they are very nice). My last trip there, the owner even offered me a banana and gave me an extra lucky draw ticket.

After my errands at Elsie, I went over to the nearby coffeeshop (S11). I wanted to eat my favourite yong tau foo but the stall seems to have moved. I was walking round and round, searching for possible lunch. I settled on this inconspicuous stall – Penang Delights. They served two things – prawn noodles and lor mee. I opt for a bowl of prawn bee hoon noodles soup (S$3.50).

The first impression of this bowl of soupy goodness was the richness of the broth. It was brownish orange and I could detect a “prawny” smell. I dived right in and have a sip of the soup. It was what I had predicted – rich, flavourful and comforting. Though I was lament that the stall owner gave me so little soup, if he had given me more, I doubt I would be able to finish it. The second thing that got my nod of approval was the prawns. The prawns were neither puny nor sliced into half. They were left whole. The stall owner was also very thoughtful. He had peeled the shell of the prawns, leaving the head and tail intact. This also means I got to suckle on the prawn heads (hello cholesterol) and extract more “prawny” juice. And I do not have to get my hands dirty.

Thanks to Penang Delights, I can see myself returning to Ang Mo Kio (and of course, saying hi to all the lovely uncles and aunties at Elsie).

Elsie Departmental Store
Blk 709, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, #01-2607
+65-64515519
Open daily from 10.30am to 8.30pm
 
Penang Delights
Blk 711, Ang Mo Kio Avenue, S11 Food Centre, #01-08

de oink café guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part two)

14 Aug

Looks deserted

Christiansborg Palace

After my visit to the National Museum of Denmark, I made a 10-minute walk to the Christiansborg Palace. When I was at the palace ground, the whole place looked secluded. There were no tourists walking around. I know there were people at the palace as there were quite a few cars parking nearby. It took me a while and found the gift shop which was also the ticketing booth. Once again, armed with my Copenhagen card, I need not pay for the entrance fee.

The Ruins

As I was early for the tour, I decided to take a quick look at The Ruins. The Ruins is located underneath the Christiansborg Palace and it comprises of the ruins from the Absalon’s Castle and the Copenhagen Castle (which were the first and second castle that were built before Christianborg Palace). The truth is it is rather difficult to be excited by a pile of rocks. Unless you are an avid fan of archaeology and Danish history, chances are you’ll be like me going “it is a lot of rocks here”. At the end of The Ruins exhibit, there is a video which illustrates the history of Christiansborg Palace. The poor Christiansborg Palace was burnt down twice! This makes a total of five castles being built on the same ground.

Suddenly I feel I am in an episode of CSI

I walked back to the gift shop and enquired about the meeting point for the tour (which was right in front of the shop). There were lockers beside the gift shop, and I decided to park my heavy coat there. Before I embark on the tour, it is mandatory to wear shoes gloves. Yes it is not a pretty sight but hey I ain’t doing this alone.

Minutes after wearing my (blue) shoes gloves, my guide, Brigitte arrived. The English speaking tour covers the Royal Reception Rooms and the Great Hall with the Queen’s tapestries. Brigitte first gave the group a brief history of the palace. The current (and third) Christiansborg Palace was built to be the permanent residence for the Royal Family. After the second fire, the Royal Family moved to the Amalienborg Palace and since then the reigning king decided to stay there and not move into the Christiansborg Palace. Today the palace houses the Danish parliament and the Supreme Court.

King’s Stairways

Alexander’s Room

Our group went on the King’s Stairway which gives us access to the Royal Reception Rooms. Each room has its own purpose and it is decorated with beautiful artwork both on the wall and ceilings. One of my favourite rooms is the Alexander Room (Alexandersalen) where royal banquets are held. In the middle of the room sits a long table that can accommodate up to 50 guests. Brigitte went on to tell us that when there is a dinner, the staff will prepare the food in the nearby smaller rooms. All the food is prepped and cooked before reaching the palace as there is no cooking facility. Guess there won’t be any piping hot soup.

The Great Hall

Yngre Glyksborgere

We continued our tour and made our way to the Great Hall where the Queen’s tapestries reside. The Great Hall is the largest of the Royal Reception Rooms. To celebrate Queen Margrethe’s 50th birthday, artist Bjørn Nørgaard created 17 tapestries which illustrate the history of Denmark. These tapestries are hung on the walls of the Great Hall. There are quite a few hidden messages in the tapestries and on the walls where they are hung. One of my favourites is Yngre Glyksborgere  which features the 1900 Denmark and the major events happened during that time. Some of the well-known events and personalities that are featured on the tapestries include the sinking of the Titanic, the release of Donald Duck comic in Denmark, the Beatles, and Hitler and World War II. The border of the tapestries is made up of famous icons of the science and technology, and political fields such as Albert Einstein, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and so on. I am amazed how Nørgaard managed to squeeze all these in a tapestry and yet make it a piece of interesting and vibrant art piece.

Look up!

Guess which seat is for the King and Queen

Brigitte went over the rope barrier and showed us the back of the tapestries where ropes were sewed onto the borders. In the case of fire, staff will just need to pull the ropes and the tapestries will be released and rolled up and ready to be taken away. I thought that is a good idea considering the history of Christiansborg Palace. Brigitte continues to share with us the little nuggets of interesting facts about each room, art pieces and the Royal Family. After our 60 minutes of tour, she left us to explore the palace on our own.

I quite enjoy the tour as the pace is just right and Brigitte is great, offering titbits of fact, making history interesting. So if you are planning a trip to Copenhagen, try to make it to Christiansborg Palace.

Christiansborg Palace
Prins Jørgens Gård 1
1218 København K
+45-33926492
Tue-Sun: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
A combination ticket (which gives you access to the Royal Reception Rooms, Royal Stables and the Ruins) – DKK100/ US$18/S$22.50
The Royal Reception Rooms ticket – DKK80/ US$14/S$18
The daily tour to the Royal Reception Rooms is free. The Danish tour starts at 11.00 am and the English tour starts at 3.00 pm. Each tour is estimated to be an hour.

de oink café guide to … Copenhagen! Let’s be a tourist and tour a museum and a castle (part one)

29 Jul

When travelling to another country, I used to try my darnedest to pretend to be one of the locals, and not wanting to be one of those tourists who look lost and helpless. As the years go by, I learn to relax and figure out that it is okay to look lost and helpless, and experience the joy of exploring a country unfamiliar and unknown to me.

Being a proud a tourist in Europe, one of the must-do on my list is to tour a castle (and after that I went on to tour a few more). I have chosen a tour of the Christiansborg Palace which is located in Copenhagen city. The Palace has only one English tour per day and it is conducted at 3pm. So before I embark on my tour, I drop by the National Museum of Denmark which is next to the Palace.

The National Museum of Denmark is one of my favourite museums that I visited in Copenhagen. The museum itself houses a variety of exhibits from around the world and of course a good part of it focused on Danish history. I particularly like three of their main exhibits – The Danish Prehistory, Stories of Denmark and The Children’s Museum.

One of the most interesting and puzzling exhibits at the Danish Prehistory section is the Haraldskaer Mermaid. When I first saw the bones of the mermaid, my brain was going “mermaids are real”. But after reading the guide, I realised this piece was created by an artist called Mille Rude. It is rare that a museum would display a fictional piece especially in the prehistorical section. Yet at the same time, it makes understanding history a bit more fun.

Stories of Denmark chronicles the history of Denmark from 1660 to 2000. It features the everyday life of the Danish, and how the nation progressed through different periods of time. I particularly like to see the kitchenware that was used in the early years – how bowls and pots were first crafted with wood then later created with copper. And you know the workmanship of the kitchenware is excellent as it is still on display after few hundred years. It also makes you wonder how they cook without a Kitchenaid or a food processor. I can only imagine the work the Danish put in to prepare a meal.

As you move along, you start to see how the lives of Danish have progressed and improved with technology – the electric stove, refrigerator, radio, television and so on. And the pots! They are so beautifully designed that I really want to steal one and bring it home. Of course, the Stories of Denmark is not just about pots and pans. It also captures the political environment. As you roam, you will see propaganda posters, Hilter figurines, war-related materials.

My favourite part of the museum is definitely the Children’s Museum. I am a big kid at heart and I love toys. I can spend all day at the Children’s Museum. On display are these boxes of building tools – they are like Lego. The pieces look so intricate and I think it will keep kids entertain for hours. Oh and the museum also has these miniature enamel cookware and reminds me of masak-masak. There are so many toys that I want to play.

Like any typical tourist, I ended my day at the museum at the gift shop. And it was a pretty good gift shop. There were replicas of some of the toys that I seen at the museum. And I managed to buy a few gifts for my friends. I left the museum pretty happy.

National Museum of Denmark
Ny Vestergade 10, Copenhagen
+45-331344 11
Tue-Sun: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Admission is free.

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