Category Archives: Home Recipes

Secrets to Fried Rice Paradise

The wife knows I have been a bit bonkers about Fried Rice. I’ve been making it about once a week – in equal parts due to the following reasons:

  • It makes a great one-dish meal that can be whipped up in 15 minutes on weeknights.
  • Minimal washing up.
  • The kids love it and lap up every grain (no screaming at them to finish their dinner!)
  • My version has luncheon meat. Luncheon meat is heavenly.

fried rice

The other reason why I’ve been making this once a week is because it absolutely eats away at me when I can’t do a dish to the point where I think it should be. I’m not perfectionist, but it does frustrate me when a dish turns out sub-par. Wifey even says I get emo over it. Of course! Cooking is art that requires lots of thought and concentration. One lapse and the whole dish can be ruined. Is it true that chefs who cook using the sous vide method are lazy? Perhaps it is merely a step towards the desire for precision in their craft.

So the real reason behind the once-a-week Fried Rice dinners is this: I keep trying to make it better.

And here’s what I discovered are some ways to attain Fried Rice Paradise:

Use Rice that has been left Overnight in the Fridge

The fridge is a very dry place and leaving the rice uncovered in the fridge overnight dehydrates it. This ensures that when you fry the rice, each grain is separated from the others. Fried rice that is done this way is incredibly satisfying. Lumpy, mushy fried rice is a no-no.

Separate the eggs

When you have every grain of rice coated nicely in egg, the aroma of the rice is absolutely amazing. However, if you add the egg directly to the rice when you fry, it’s likely that you can a nice eggy aroma without being able to taste whole pieces of the scrambled eggs. I like to do both – add 2 eggs directly to the wok to coat the rice grains and scrambling another few eggs on the side to add to the rice later.

Aromas

The aroma in a good fried rice comes from a few different sources. The wok, the egg and the luncheon meat. I like to sear the luncheon meat in hot oil first till golden brown before adding the rice for frying. Browned luncheon meat is one of the best things in the world. Searing it in the hot oil before adding the rice also flavours the oil beautifully; and this flavour is imparted into the rice afterwards.

Vegetables

I’d be the first to say – I hate the frozen trinity of carrot cubes, corn kernels and peas. They taste disgusting and distracts attention from the smokey goodness of a good fried rice. It’s absolute sacrilege. It’s not necessary to add veges to your fried rice, but if you do, add a neutral flavoured one like diced long beans or… long beans. I can’t really think of any other vege that would give the fried rice some colour without compromising the overall flavours of the fried rice. If you know of any good combination, tell me!

And that’s it, one of my favourite dishes to cook recently. Till next time!

 

 

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Redmart vs Honestbee vs PurelyFresh: Which one do you use?

I’m not a techie per se – I don’t hanker after the latest gadgets or the funkiest new technology. Many of the electronic items in my house were bought on a budget, some are even pre-loved. But one thing that I’ve been quite pleased with in recent months has been the advent of the grocery delivery services.

I’m the one who does most of the meal-planning and cooking at home, and so naturally the responsibility of grocery shopping falls on my shoulders. With two under 2, I initially tried to do one major grocery run to the wet market/ supermarket a week to save time; but honestly the carrying got to me. It’s not easy juggling 20kgs of groceries with a stroller and an easily-bored toddler.

Each of the 3 big players in the grocery delivery market have their strengths; but also weaknesses. Let me share with you:

Redmart:

RedMart-Screenshot-720x394

Redmart is the biggest player possibly because they were first-movers. The co-founder of Facebook is apparently an investor. They stock their own inventory in the warehouse.

Strengths:

  • Huge variety, excellent range. But, why you no sell bittergourd!!?
  • Generally, they carry higher quality items; some even from artisanal stores.
  • Good range of ‘angmoh’ items – if you need stuff like gluten-free, organic etc.
  • Excellent web & app user experience. It actually makes grocery shopping fun.
  • Excellent and responsive customer service.

Weaknesses:

  • I seem to no longer be able to get same-day or even next-day deliveries now that they are getting more popular.
  • I’ve encountered late deliveries a few times, but to their credit, they do give me some cash credit in my account to make up for it.
  • Their meat items, while fresh, tend to be of the more expensive range.

Honestbee:

honestbee

They don’t carry their own inventory. Essentially what they have is an army of shoppers ready to chiong down the NTUC aisles for you when you place an order and deliver it to your place.

Strengths:

  • Exact same pricing as what you get in stores.
  • Managed to get same day delivery once.

Weaknesses:

  • Because they don’t stock their own inventory, you can order the item online but when the guy shops for you, the item isn’t available. Now, that sucks. And in my experience, it happens really often – especially if you pick a delivery time like evenings (which I do because that’s the only time I’m home) and the shopper starts shopping for your items at 5pm. That’s when all the veges and fruits are gone already.
  • Their website only has pictures, but not descriptions, of the items. Sometimes, I need more information of the item but there’s none.

PurelyFresh:

FB Logo

PurelyFresh is actually the owner of several wet markets and they have leveraged on this supply chain to grab the market share of people like me – still like the quality afforded by the traditional wet market but needing the convenience of online shopping.

Strengths:

  • Their veges, meats and fish are seriously fresh. Excellent quality. The pomfret I bought was fresher than the freshest fish I could get as the first customer at NTUC.
  • Customisation. You can request for any type of customisation for your items – just like you can at a wet market. Chopping, slicing, gutting, de-skinning, de-boning, portioning. And no mistakes so far.
  • Clean packaging. The items come perfectly wrapped and clean. No leaking of blood etc from the meats. I just pop it all directly into my chest freezer.

Weaknesses:

  • Small variety.
  • Despite running their operations as an “online wet market”, there are many items you can get at the wet market that you can’t get here. Items like shui jiao skin, salted vegetables, salted fish etc are strangely not available. Low margins, I suppose?
  • I think they don’t deliver on Mondays (traditionally the day most wet markets are closed).

Conclusion:

You can probably tell by now, my experience with HonestBee hasn’t been fantastic. Given their operations model, I think there’s not much they can do to rectify the issues.

I continue to use both Redmart and PurelyFresh (I just ordered a third weekly order from PurelyFresh). Redmart is the mainstay for heavy groceries like rice, laundry detergent or drinks when I’m having guests over. Those tend to take time for me to accumulate enough for free delivery. For weekly vegetables, meats and groceries, I think I’m gonna stick to PurelyFresh for its quality and freshness.

Which grocery delivery service is your favourite?

 

Putting Food on The Table: Soya Sauce Minced Pork 酱油肉碎

Minimalist Food before Minimalism was Cool

“This and rice; nothing more needed.” – Lide (my bro)
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酱油肉碎

You see, the need for minimalism is a #firstworldproblem. Before the glut of wealth and the swelling of our girths, I suppose many families were minimalist; not because it was oh-so-hipster, but out of need. We all grew up hearing our parents’ stories of how noodles used to cost 20cents, or that eggs were only eaten on birthdays and *gasp* Fanta Orange was only drunk during Chinese New Year as ‘pok zui’ -‘pok’ being the sound heard when the glass bottle of fizzy delight was opened.

Lives have since evolved; and we seem to have much more now. I am careful to use the word ‘seem’ because having ‘more’ or having ‘less’ is often a matter of perspective depending on where your vantage point is.

I am sure that 40 years into the future, my son would probably be telling my grandson: “Look, you just need to wink and you can speak to your friend overseas. In our time, we had to take out a 4.5inch device called a phone from our pockets and key in a string of 8 numbers before we can do so.” “Omg. That’s crazy.” I can almost hear my grandson say.

And so I hesitate to say this generation is less thankful for what they have than previous generations. I’m sure my grandparents told my parents when they were kids: “Be thankful for your noodles! In our time during the war, we only had sweet potatoes!” What I do think is that we are losing our sense of wonder. In an age when anything seems possible, we often look outward to be entertained; yet rarely look inward and upward for moments of contentedness.

Is it any wonder then that ‘minimalism’ is often such a strongly felt need? The world of advertising, media and entertainment relentlessly bombards us with messages that we need another new service, another new product.

My experience as a new father awakened me to this reality in a way I had never felt before. Just visit any baby fair: you will be bewildered at the range of every conceivable (and inconceivable) product; appealing to your every parental anxiety that this new invention and that new gadget will buy you a better nights’ sleep or a less fussy baby or remove every danger or discomfort (real or imagined) your child will feel. Whoever invented the idea that the purpose this life here on earth was to be ‘comfortable’, anyway?

**

I’ve always wondered at the many heritage dishes we enjoy in Singapore and their seeming similarities. Think chwee kueh, chai tow kway, Teochew kway teow (the type with only kway teow and chai poh), chee cheong fun. One thing stands out for me: they are essentially carbs with a very salty condiment to give it taste. Bear in mind that truly old school chai tow kway did not have egg. These were poor man’s food: a lot of salt for taste and a lot of carbs for energy. Minimalist food, maximum satisfaction.

And so too is my Mum’s Soya Sauce Minced Pork recipe. It’s so simple, just

– soya sauce

– minced pork.

Cooked over a stove in a pot. Guests in our home are often surprised at how tasty it is when eaten with piping hot rice. It is one of the dishes I want my son to learn to appreciate and I hope it becomes a staple in my own home.

This is one of the thoughts I have whenever I shovel mouthfuls of rice and this dish invented by my mum when famished: that I really don’t need very much more. I often suspect it is not the objective ‘tastiness’ of the dish, but its sheer simplicity that opens up our senses to a fuller experience of the food, and life, itself.

I guess, simplicity connects us not with our insatiable wants, but subtly turns our hearts towards thankfulness. It reminds us that life does go on when we have plenty and when we have nought; it turns our eyes on what we do have rather than what we don’t. Thankfulness really does make food taste better.

This was the way my mum put food on the table. And it’s the way I want to put food on mine.


What about you? If you are a daddy (or a mummy), what are your thoughts about putting food on the table?
This post is part of a series of posts by Daddy Bloggers from the Daddy Matters group.

Click on the picture below to see the rest of the posts by other daddies!

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Recipe: Egg Mayo

If you’ve been following this blog, you will know I love to cook. Some dishes I make when I have the time and inspiration can be fairly complex, like Teochew Lor Bak or my wife’s favourite French Toast, but to be honest, not all meals at home are like that. There are some Saturdays after a majorly stressful baby-never-sleep-at-all night that we are just thankful to be able to sit down and swallow pieces of bread.

Egg Mayo is one of our favourite breakfast foods on days like that. It’s something I grew up eating, and is somewhat comfort food too. I think I must’ve made this a million times when living abroad for half a year on student exchange. It’s simple to make, keeps fairly long and always good on toast. It’s also incredibly simple for you daddies out there who want to surprise your wives on a Saturday morning. :p

DSC_0388-1

My mum makes a Chinese-fied version in which she actually uses soya sauce to season the egg mayo mixture. I never quite liked that, so I use salt and I also zing mine up a bit with mustard and a dash of smoked paprika.

So here goes:

Ingredients: 

6 eggs

Mayonnaise (1 tbsp – more if you like your egg mayo creamier.)

English mustard (2 tsp)

Salt to taste

Pepper, Smoked Paprika

Egg mayo collage-1

Steps: 

Boil the eggs in water for 10 mins, then take the eggs out and dunk them in ice water.

This helps to make them easier to peel later on. You can even boil these the night before to make breakfast easier the next morning. 

Peel the eggs and put them in a large bowl. Mash them up with a fork. 

Add the condiments and mix well.

Voila! 

DSC_0387-1

They keep in the refrigerator for well over a week; just ensure they’re not contaminated. Spread it on toast tartine-style, or stuff some into a baguette or croissant for that Delifrance feel. Have it with ham, sprinkle bacon bits on top, mix it into a Caesar salad. Oh, my friend Rachel serves them atop Ritz cheese biscuits. Heavenly.

The possibilities are endless! Truly a versatile breakfast idea. Enjoy!

Recipe: Mummy’s Lor Bak – Authentic Teochew style with watery gravy!

When I was a kid, one of my very favouritest food was my mama’s Lor Bak. Being a rice lover, I absolutely adored the savoury sauce poured over rice and devoured. It always made me eat more bowls of rice than I should. Damn. Unfortunately, mama didn’t make this dish frequently. Understandably so, as it takes quite a lot of work. The one thing that pissed me off big time was when she would make this dish in a ginormous pot, and being really generous, proceed to distribute all that delicious Lor Bak to family and friends, until we had only one portion left just nice for the family dinner. Argh. Not enough!!

I loved it when my mom was making this dish. The aromas from the braising pot would waft all the way to the lift lobby of our HDB.. and I could smell it the moment I came home from school in the afternoons without even having to step through the door! Heaven. Those are actually one of the more enduring memories I have of my childhood days.

A few days ago, I chanced upon this post on Tau Yew Bak on The Food Canon and it reminded me of my mom’s lovely Lor Bak. And why shouldn’t I attempt it myself? And so off I went to the supermarket.

Now, this dish is Lor Bak. Do not get it confused with Tau Yew Bak which, from what I understand, is a Peranakan dish. The version I’m making is the authentic Teochew style – the kind my purist Teochew grandmother hao lian about. It’s different from Tau Yew Bak in that it’s got gravy: lots of it. Think of it as a stew, or even a soup: that’s how much gravy there is. And while there are some very simple spices in it, it’s different from the Hokkien style of braising in that this recipe does not contain any herbs; and neither is the gravy sticky and starchy. Ah yes; the pride of the Teochews.

Ok, let’s cut to the chase.

Lor Bak (good for 6-8 people)

Ingredients:

  • Pork ‘twee bah’ – 1.5kg
  • This dish is classically made with pork belly, but my wife hates the fat; so I swapped it out for pork shoulder in this recipe. It’s known as ‘twee bah’ at NTUC.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tau Kwa
  • Dark soya sauce – 10 tbsp (for colour and sweetness) the dark, sticky type (‘superior grade’) gives better colour and flavour
  • Light soya sauce – 10 tbsp or to taste (for saltiness)
  • Garlic – 10 cloves, 5 crushed 5 uncrushed
  • Ginger – 2 slices
  • Star anise – 2
  • Cloves – 10
  • Chinese Five Spice powder – 1/2 tsp

Steps: 

  1. Wash and cut the pork into chunks. Marinate in 2 tbsp of dark soya sauce for colour.
  2. In a pot, saute the pork with a bit of oil till browned.
  3. Add the sauces, and add water until the meat is immersed. Add the ginger, garlic and spices (you can use a tea bag) and simmer.
  4. After about an hour, add the eggs and the tau kwa.

Simmer on a low heat for another hour until pork is tender and easy to the bite. Lor Bak steps

To note:

  • This is not meant to be a ‘pretty dish’, it’s kinda imprecise, so feel free to adjust the proportion of the different sauces and spices to your liking.
  • Eggs and taukwa need to simmer for at least an hour to absorb the flavours.
  • Take care not too over-spice with the 5-spice powder. It tends to be very strong, half a teaspoon too much and it will spoil the whole dish.

Lor Bak_wm Ahhh yes. Bliss. 

Recipe: Liren’s Brilliant French Toast

It would probably be quite an under-statement to say that my wife’s favourite breakfast is French Toast. While my favourite is unequivocally a good ol’ Bak Chor Mee, I also subscribe to the timeless philosophy of #happywifehappylife. You see, that hypothesis is even proven in this new research study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. And so, naturally, one can not ever make too much French Toast on Saturday mornings in the Tay household.

French toast

After so many rounds of experimenting and tweaking, I believe I’ve chanced upon the right balance of deliciousness and accessibility here in this recipe. You see, there are dozens of recipes online for French Toast, but many contain ingredients or techniques that are just impossible to do on a lazy Saturday morning.

This recipe, I assure you, will get you daddies more nocturnal satisfaction (geddit?) on Saturday nights if you serve them to your wife in bed on Saturday mornings. More tips along the way!

Ingredients (makes 8 slices of toast) 

  • Bread – any bread will do really, but not all breads are born equal. Many angmoh recipes online call for Brioche or Challakh, but I’ve discovered the best bread for French toast thus far is called “Danish Bread” which you can get for $3.10 per loaf at the common neighbourhood bakery Four Leaves.
  • Eggs – 4 large
  • Milk – about 100ml. Add more if you want your toast more ‘custardy’, less if you want it more ‘eggy’.
  • Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
  • Butter – for frying the bread
  • Dry ingredients:
  • Sugar – 2 tsp
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Cinnamon/ Allspice – a small sprinkle, or to taste

Steps: 

  1. MIX: In a mixing bowl (make sure this bowl is big enough for you to dip your bread in later), mix together the dry ingredients and ensure they are evenly mixed. Add the milk, eggs, and vanilla essence and whisk it all together with a fork until well combined.
  2. HEAT: In a hot pan, melt a bit of butter over a low heat. It’s very easy to burn French toast, so I go with the philosophy ‘low and slow‘: low heat also means you have much more time to ensure you get the right colour on your toast. When the butter begins to foam, it’s the right time to fry the bread.
  3. DIP: Dip the bread in the egg mixture and let it sit for about 15 seconds on each side to soak up the egg custard.
  4. FRY: Place slowly into the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until it achieves your desired colour.
  5. SERVE: Drizzle some syrup and serve!

Tips for extra luxury for that special Saturday: 

  • Make stuffed French toast by spreading anything you like in between two slices of bread before dipping and frying. Chocolate chips, nutella, bananas, peanut butter, jams, cream cheese. The sky’s the limit!
  • Spike your egg mixture with some booze! Rum or tequila, anyone?
  • Serve your French toast with a small knob of salted butter and syrup, or even some gula melaka sauce!

Snow fungus with Pear

I was never really a fan of Chinese soupy desserts really. Eating out, I usually wouldn’t order these as I considered them over-priced and low on the shiok-o-meter rating. Why would one eat a Chinese sweet soup when there were desserts like brownies, apple crumbles or Belgian waffles? Now THOSE were shiok.

But ever since moving in, I discovered Weili is quite a fan of these. My MiL makes green bean soup, luo han guo drinks for us quite routinely on weekends, and so these were stuff that Weili grew up eating. A random stroll into HockHua one day was our fate. I got all excited about different kinds of ingredients and came out with Chinese herbs, dates, chrysanthemum, luo han guo (monk fruit) etc enough to last us a looooooong time.

Snow fungus with pears is a soup you’ll find quite easily at Chinese dessert shops. A bowl usually goes for about $2.80 or more. This dessert is known for its cooling nature and is also a good remedy if you’re having a sore throat or heaty cough. Making it at home is ridiculously simple and in fact, I think our entire pot (enough for 5-6 portions) cost about $3.00! Awesome for a hot day or a teeny midweek treat.

So here’s what went into this pot:

1 pear (cored and sliced)
1 apple (cored and sliced) – the crisper apples tend to work better for these compared to the powdery ones. 
1 piece of dried snow fungus (soaked in water for about half and hour and cut into small pieces)
4-5 red dates
A bunch of Chinese almonds 南北杏 – these are relatively cheap and can be found at any Chinese herb shop 
A bunch of wolfberries (my MiL loves to spam these – for a splash of colour. They say these are good for the eyes too, who knows?) 

Dessert - snow fungus with pear 2

Everything in the pot except the wolfberries please. A slow simmer of about half an hour, adding in the wolfberries in the last 5 minutes and you’re done. Add some rock sugar to taste, but I’d suggest you do this more towards the end as the simmering tends to draw the sweetness out of the pears and dates quite nicely. You don’t want it to be too sweet.

Remember not to overcook the fruit either, or it tends to become quite mushy. The highlight of this dish for me is the balance of the soft yet crunchy fungus and the sweet smooth bite of the boiled fruit.

Oh, and another note. Most versions sold in shops don’t use apples. I thought the slight tartness in the apples did add quite a nice dimension to the dish and lift my enjoyment level of this otherwise simple dessert. If I had my way, I’d even try squeezing the juice of half a lemon in, but my wife probably wouldn’t be pleased at my blaspheme of this simple, homely comfort.

Dessert - snow fungus with pear

Chilled or hot: just delicious.