Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken / 客家蒸盐鸡

Everyone is waiting for this recipe. It looked easy by looking at the photo. I mean... c'mon! It's just salted steamed chicken! But let me tell you, to make this right, you need abit of patience here.

This is my grandma's dish. My mom continues the dish. Recipe I'm sharing here is the same as the one my grandma taught. But I improve the cooking method to achieve better tenderness of the chicken after me and my mother talked about it. As shared by my grandma, there are two types of Hakka Salted Chicken. One was the Hakka Baked Salted Chicken. Another one, is Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's I was told.

This.... I cooked this 2 years ago. Using eunuch chicken (太监鸡)  that I got from Malaysia. Thanks to my mom for arranging that. The meat is muscular and flavorful, and the color of the skin is *fwohhh* I can eat this everyday!

And this, I used Kampong Chicken (甘榜鸡) that I got from Sheng Siong Supermarket, as that is the best chicken I can get at that point of time, and I brought this salted chicken dish to Edith's place for gathering. They love it!

And this, I used Malaysia imported bald neck kampung chicken (光径甘榜鸡), bought from one of the farm market in Choa Chu Kang Farm Mart. Very nice texture. Worth my trip to Choa Chu Kang for sure.

My mom's steamed salted chicken always tastes the most comforting. With the simplicity of this dish, the quality of chicken used is really important. Free-range or Kampung Chicken is a must. I make this dish for many times, and I never get sick of it. They may looked ordinary, but I guarantee you that this is really yummy to eat. To make this dish, you need a good bird as a whole. As you can see, there's a difference in results when you use different types of chicken. I would not want you to buy the ordinary fresh white fat chicken for this dish. When the dish is simple, you need to ensure that the ingredients used are the best.

Be fearless my friend. Just buy the whole chicken and give this a shot!

  • 1 whole bird of good Kampong Chicken, weight about 1.5kg
  • 60 grams of Sea Salt (or 50g table salt)
  • 2 stalks of Spring Onions
  • 3 to 4 thick slices of Ginger
  • Enough water to cover the chicken, Probably 2.3L to 2.5L, depends on the size of your pot.
  1. Wash and trim away visible fats from the chicken. Chop away the chicken feet. Stuff ginger and spring onions into the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Find a slim and tall pot that can fit in a chicken nicely. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiled, hold the chicken head (refer to photo), soak the chicken body into the boiling water. With your hand still holding the chicken head, lift the chicken up, and soak it into the boiling water again. Do this for 4 times before you release the chicken head and let the chicken submerge into the water completely. By doing this, water will go into the chicken cavity, and hence, the whole chicken will be well cooked. Water level must completely cover the chicken.
  3. Immediately turn the fire into dead low and slow, lids on, and leave it there for 5mins. Remember to set timer. Do not go over 5 mins. 
  4. After 5 mins, heat off. Leave it there untouched. Set timer for 1 hour. Walk out of the kitchen and go watch your TV show. If your chicken is 1.7kg or anything bigger than 1.6kg, please make it another 10mins or so. You have to gauge the time yourself. For 1.6kg chicken, yes... 1 hour is just nice.
  5. Use a pair of chopsticks, carefully and gently remove the chicken from the pot and place the chicken to the big tub, and fill with running tap water to cool down the chicken. Try your best not to bruise or tear the chicken skin. 
  6. When the chicken is cooled down abit on the surface, put the chicken into a tub of ice-cold water to further cooling process until chicken is completely turned cold. Drain. 
  7. Chop away chicken neck. And then chop chicken into half (refer to photo). And then, apply both halved chicken piece with generous amount of sea-salt evenly on the chicken until all sea salt is used up. Salt the chicken neck too. They can be eaten. But I don't encourage you to eat the skin for the chicken neck tho. Do not get freaked out by the amount of salt I use. Be adventurous. Just do it.  
  8. Leave the chicken sit on the tub or a plate. Let the chicken sit there uncovered to air-dry while it gets marinated for at least 12 hours. 

Things to note....

I usually leave the chicken sit on my table top for upto 4 to 5 hours. And then, I cling-wrap it and keep it in the fridge until tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I just take the chicken out of the fridge, chop it into pieces, arrange it on a plate. If you are eating the chicken neck, remember to remove the chicken neck skin before chopping them.

My grandmother will steam the chopped chicken for quite a number of minutes before she serve the chicken to us. But the chicken will shrink and over-cooked and not so nice looking in presentation. Chicken juices will also released from the chicken too. So, I've modified this method. Instead of steaming it over brave fire, I steam the chicken without fire. It means, I bring the steamer into a boil. Off the fire, put the chicken into the steamer, covered, and let the remaining heat from the steamed water to warm the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken dish and serve with some spring onions as garnishing. The chicken is just warm, and nice to eat. Infact, this dish can be served under room temperature. When I'm feeling lazy, sometimes, I will skip the steaming process, since the chicken is already cooked. Chicken piece will remain juicy and tender. 

1.6kg chicken vs 60 grams of sea salt sounds like a horribly salty drama. But I assure you, this is just right. You need to have enough salt to marinade the chicken for at least 12 hours. During marinating process, some salt will drop and end up on the plate. In short, you are not eating 60 grams of salt for sure. It will kinda diminish over the marinating time. Marinating upto 12 hours is to ensure you produce deeply flavored salted chicken. But if you are making it on the same day, please prepare it early in the morning and you can have it for dinner too. Bear in mind, sea salt taste better and less salty. Ordinary table salt is saltier and I don't like it.

Please take note - Do adjust the salt usage and the cooking time according to the size of your chicken.

This recipe is simple and homely. It doesn't require complicated ingredients. I urge you to try it at least once. You will then know why I kept repeating this dish at home. It's convenient as it allows me to prepare this dish ahead. Sometimes, I cook the whole chicken on day 1, eat half of the chicken on day 2, and freeze the other half of the chicken for another day. It's convenient.

For my friends who adore my Spring Onions and Ginger Oil as an optional accompaniment to this dish. Thanks for loving it. My grandma's recipe do not have this optional accompaniment to go along with this steamed salted chicken. Because I love it, that's why I prepare it to go along with the chicken. It's absolutely optional. And now, here's the recipe.

Spring Onions and Ginger Oil
  • 100g Old Ginger
  • 25g Spring Onions (or more), chopped
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • ½ tsp Salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp Sugar, or more to taste
Blitz ginger into paste in a food processor. Heat up 2 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on a frying pan.

When the oil is hot enough, add in ginger paste. Fry well for 2 to 3 mins.

Add in spring onions, sugar and salt. Give it a quick stir. Heat off, set aside to infuse. Easy!

On a side note, I know and I foresee, after I posted this recipe, there will be alot of readers will ask me about the cooking time. Ask me if the chicken will be cooked completely, since I'm just letting the chicken sit in the boiled water for 1 hour only. If you followed my recipe before, you will know that I do not share something that doesn't work on me. If you follow exactly what I said, the chicken will gives you well cooked, juicy and tender meat result. But if you are new, not adventurous, and still cannot trust me completely about the cooking time, then, I would suggest you to slightly overcook the chicken. There's nothing right or wrong. It's just your own preference.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mushrooms Lor Bak Png / Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice Bowl (香菇滷肉飯 / 台湾滷肉飯)

Braised pork rice bowl, generally known as Lor Bak Png (aka Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯) is always one of the well known rice dish in Taiwan. Ask around Taiwanese, all of them can tell you their love for Lor Bak Png. For the first time I went Taiwan, I had Lor Bak Png, I'm absolutely in love with it.

I'm actually salivating when I'm writing this post. Darn!!!

There's a difference between Lor Bak Png in the Northern Taiwan and the Southern Taiwan. Northern version uses five spice powder, cinnamon powder and fried shallots for extra pungent. While Southern Taiwan prefers original taste. No spices are added usually. They only depends on fried shallots and the taste of the fresh meat. Southern Taiwanese loves sweet, and this also explains Southern version of Lor Bak Png will use more sugar than the Northern Taiwan version.

The one I'm cooking here, is Northern Taiwan version with the addition of mushrooms. Recipe adapted from a Taiwanese Braise Pork Recipe Book written in Chinese.

There's some rules you need to know before you cook this dish.
  1. If you think this dish will make you put on weight, skip it.
  2. If you think this is unhealthy, skip it.
  3. If you want to substitute this recipe with minced meat, this is not the right recipe for you.
Life is short. Just keep calm, cook it and eat it!

Please do not use minced meat for this recipe. To have better chewy texture, we need to use pork belly cut into small cubes. The amount of fattiness in the meat must be adequate. Fatty vs Meat should be 2 : 3 ratio. You must have sufficient fat meat to provide sufficient fats to the entire dish. If you look at my photos, you will know what I'm trying to tell you.

Good braised meat can only be achieved if the soya sauce used is good. I don't know what can you get at your area, but please buy Taiwanese premium soya sauce as first choice. If not, buy premium first draw soya sauce (like me).

I choose to cook this version of Lor Bak Png with mushrooms is because I could imagine how delicious it would be by just reading the recipe book. I couldn't wait to cook, and I couldn't wait to tell you how delicious it is. This recipe serves about 8 or upto 10 servings of rice bowl. If you have a small family like me, you can cook full recipe, eat half, and keep the other half for next day or even the day after.

  • 100g Dried Chinese Mushrooms (香菇)
  • 500g Pork Belly, skin on (三层肉)  ... See Note*
  • 80 ~ 100g Pig Skin (新鲜猪皮)  ... See Note*
  • 50g Pork Fats (新鲜肥猪肉) ... See Note*
  • 100g Shallots (小葱头) or 40g Fried Shallots (炸葱酥) ... See Note*
  • 80g Red Onions (红葱头)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced (蒜头), optional
  • 650ml Water (水)
  • 150ml First Draw Soy Sauce (头抽) (I used Lee Kum Kee)... See Note*
  • 1 tsp White Pepper Powder (白胡椒粉)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt (海盐)
  • 1 tsp Five Spice Powder (五香粉)
  • 20g Rock Sugar (冰糖)  ... See Note*
  • 1 pc Star Anise (八角)
  • Coriander
  • Pickled Daikon
  • Boiled eggs, optional
Note :
  1. Some over-friendly butcher will cut away the skin for you when you buy Pork belly. Please make sure you buy the pork belly with skin on it. 
  2. Ask butcher for fresh pig skin. Usually they will give it to you for free. Extra pig skin gives extra collagenous chew to the entire dish. But if you cannot get it, you can choose not to add pig skin into this dish. 
  3. Pork fats is important. DO NOT skip this. 
  4. 100g Shallot, peeled, sliced, fry, and it will give you estimation of 40g Fried shallot. That's what it means. You just got the estimation.
  5. I don't have Taiwanese soy sauce with me. So, I just make do with Lee Kum Kee first draw soy sauce. You can use your preferred brand first draw soy sauce, First draw soy sauce is tastier and soy sauce taste is heavier. 
  6. Do not replace rock sugar with sugar. You need rock sugar for this dish. Rock sugar and sugar taste different. 
The Lee Kum Kee First Draw Soy Sauce that I used for this dish.

  1. Soak dried mushrooms till soft or overnight. Squeeze away excess water, dice mushrooms.
  2. Cut pork belly into small pieces.
  3. Wash pig skin, use knife to scrape away the excess fats on the pig skin. Cut pig skin into small pieces. 
  4. Cut pork fats into small piece. In a saucepot, throw in the pork fats pieces, under slow and low fire, let the pork fats render on it's own. Give it a stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking together. When the pork fats bits turned pale golden, it is done. Remove pork fats bits for later use and set aside the pork oil or we called it Lard. You only need estimated 3 tbsp pork oil for this dish. The rest of the oil, keep them well in the fridge. You can use it next time for any stir fry dish. Especially stir-fried noodles. WoohH!!!
  5. Shallots preparation mentioned as per above NOTE. peeled, sliced, fry.  
  6. Red onions, just finely chopped them and set aside.  
Cooking Method
  1. In a wok, heat up 3 tbsp Pork Oil / lard, add in chopped red onions and garlic. Fry till fragrant, 
  2. Add in mushrooms, fry until you can smell the mushrooms aroma. Add more oil if needed. 
  3. Add in pork belly, fry until the meat turned white (almost 80% cooked). 
  4. Add in soy sauce, fry until the soy sauce is slightly caramelized.
  5. Add in the rest of the seasoning. Fry until the dish gives good aroma. Add in water. 
  6. Once water is boiled, reduce to slow and low fire, covered. Let it slowly cook for 30mins.
  7. After 30mins, add in fried shallots and about 2 tbsp amount of crunchy pork fat bits that you reserved earlier, give it a stir. Add a little more water if necessary. Let it simmer another 15 to 20mins. Set aside for serving later. 

To Serve : Pour a scoop of braised pork over a bowl of piping hot steamed rice. Garnish with coriander and pickled daikon if you prefer. Braised hard boiled eggs on the photo is optional of course :)

Braised pork dish is very forgiving. You can braise a pot. Keep them well. Reheat it again when you feels like eating. Infact, if you can leave this pot of goodness overnight, it would taste even better on the next day. When you intend to cook this braised pork at home, be warned that you need to cook extra rice.

This braised dish will give you very little and thick sauce. To achieve the desired effect, you will need to understand this part. Although slow braising could reduce the water level, but what thickened the sauce is the natural collagen that comes from the pig's skin. This also explains why extra pig's skin is added to be braised together. The translucent pieces of pig's skin is braised to perfection is an absolute delight to savor.

Oh yes. For those who wants to know how I prepare the eggs. But this is NOT how Taiwanese Lor Bak Png eggs supposed to look like. Taiwanese Lor Bak Png eggs is hard boiled eggs. I prepared this eggs to eat with the braised pork rice bowl is because Max wants it.
  1. Add a tsp of vinegar in boiling water. Cook eggs for 5mins. 
  2. Remove eggs from boiling water after 5mins and put eggs into the ice-cold water and let eggs cool down into ice-cold temperature before removing the shells. 
  3. Soak eggs into soya sauce mixture (1 part soya sauce, 1 part mirin, 1 part water) for a day. 

This dish is simple but yummy. It gives wonderful flavors and aroma. I know it's sinful, but I you don't have to eat it everyday right? It's a rare occasion indulgence. Haha.. Just take everything in moderate.

I would highly recommend you to try replicating it. I love it! I love the pig skin! And I'm sure most who had tried it would agree too!