Friday, October 29, 2010

Five Spice Braised Pork Belly

I hardly ever cook pork at all in my kitchen simply because my late dear LT never liked eating it. I remembered when I made this particular dish, he said the house had such a "porky" smell and he kept covering his nose. In a way the smell was kind of "porky" in the beginning but once the spices started to develop into the dish, it was really quite fragrant. I simmered the pork belly for about 3 and a half hours and by the end of it's cooking time, the sauce had become very dark and thick.The meat was also very soft and smooth. In fact when I started slicing the pork belly, the meat was practically falling apart.

I decided to serve the slices of pork belly with steamed Chinese buns. I also added thin slices of cucumber and green spring onions. The buns were bought from a local supermarket and I steamed them first before adding the pork slices in-between each bun. This particular dish is now very popular in Chinese restaurants and you can also find food kiosks at local shopping malls selling them as well.

pork belly 1

pork belly 3

Five Spice Braised Pork Belly
Recipe adapted from Chez Pim
Serves 5 - 6


1.5 kg of pork belly with skin on (If you can find the belly with the rib bones attached, use it (rinse well and pat dry)
2" long knob of ginger, peeled, sliced thinlyand but into thin slices, lengthwise
1 1/2 Tbsp Five Spice powder
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce (You can substitute 2 Tbsp regular soy sauce plus 1/2 tbsp brown sugar)
3 Tbsp soy sauce (plus more to taste)
1 piece of cinnamon stick, 2" in length
3 star anise
5 cloves
A small bunch of cilantro leaves for garnish.


1) Use a large dutch oven or heavy pot big enough to lay the pork belly insside.

2) Heat up the oil, then add the ginger and garlic. Then add the five spice powder and other spices. Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant.

3) Then add the pork, skin side down over the garlic and spices.Add enough water to completely cover the belly and a bit more. Add the dark and light soy sauce.

4) Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil. Skim any foamy scum from the top. Then, open the lid slightly, and let simmer over low heat for at least 3 hours (skim occasionally) or until the pork is falling off the bone tender.

5) Once the belly is ready, remove it from the pot. Then reduce the sauceto a thick, caramel like consistency.

6) To serve, warm back the pork belly. Slice it thinly and lay on a plate. Drizzle the gravy and garnish with sprigs of cilantro. Alternatively you can serve the pork belly slices with steamed Chinese buns.

pork belly 2

pork belly 4

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raisin Carrot Cake

One of my favourite cakes has got to be a moist carrot cake with lots of raisin and walnuts in it and not forgetting the topping of cream cheese frosting. To me this cake simply screams simplicity, home-made and family. When I first came down to Singapore a couple of decades ago (gosh has it been that long), I would go shopping on my own and then rest my feet by having a cup of coffee and carrot cake at my then favourite cafe, Dome.

I have tried many different recipes for carrot cakes and most are pretty similar. Some recipes would call for butter whilst others would require vegetable oil. No matter which recipe it was, the cakes always turn out moist. I think it's because of the carrots that keeps the cake crumbs from drying out. This particular recipe which has been adapted from Amy Beh's "Local Favourites" calls for egg whites to be whipped until soft peaks. Now this is something totally different from the methods I have tried in the past and as such I could not resist but try it out. I must say that this particular carrot cake turned out more moist and flavourful than the ones I had made in the past. In fact it is so good that this is the fourth time I am making this cake.

Carrot cake 1

Carrot cake 3

Raisin Carrot Cake
Recipe Adapted from Amy Beh


150g freshly grated carrots
1 Tbsp orange zest
60g golden raisins
45g chopped walnuts
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
185g unsalted butter
150g soft brown sugar
4 eggs, separated
10g castor sugar

Sift together:

185g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon


1) Gease sides and line base of 19cm square cake tin with parchment paper.

2) Soak the raisins in the orange juice for 10 mins

3) Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks two at a time, beating each addition well. Add essence and beat until just combined.

4) In another clean and dry metal bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add castor sugar and continue to whisk until soft peaks.

5) Stir carrots and orange zest into the creamed butter mixture. Add raisin mixture. When combined, carefully fold in the egg whites followed by the dry ingredients in 2 batches.

6) Add the walnuts to batter.

7) Pour into prepared tin and level the surface.

8) Bake in 180C for 40 – 50 mins, or until the cake skewer comes out clean.

9) Cool cake in tin for about 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Carrot cake 2

Carrot cake 4

Sunday, October 17, 2010

BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siew Buns)

After having successfully tried making yeasted buns using the "water roux" method which were made into Mini Sliders, I went about making another batch of dough a few weeks later. But this time I decided to add BBQ pork as the filing. BBQ pork buns or "char siew buns" as we normally call them can be found in local bakeries and part of the menu items in any yum cha restaurant.

char siew bun 1

For the filing, I decided to buy ready made char siew which I then diced into small pieces. I added frozen green peas as well with the meat. To season the filing I referred to a previous recipe for Baked BBQ Pork Buns . After the buns were baked, I glazed them with some maple syrup diluted with a bit of water to give it a glossy look. I must say that the buns were delicious but next time round, I will try to add in more filing.

Recipe for Yeasted Buns

Recipe for the BBQ Pork Filing

char siew bun 2

char siew bun 3

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sui Kow (Chinese Dumplings)

If you are familiar with Chinese food, you would probably know what Sui Kow is. If not, it's a boiled stuffed dumpling. It could be passed of as an Italian ravioli ... but a Chinese version.

Sui Kow or roughly translated in English is known as 'water dog' - don't ask me why cause I really have no clue at all. It is like a wantan but only much bigger. The filing can be made of meat, seafood or a mixture of both with some vegetable. Personally I prefer having sui kow as compared with wantan. You can have this as a dish by itself or accompany the sui kow with noodles (which is a very popular dish here in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong) or steamed rice.

dumpling 2

Sui Kow Recipe (Chinese Dumplings)
Makes about 30 dumplings


160g medium size shrimps (net weight), shell removed
100g minced pork (leave some fat in it)
5 pieces water chestnuts, chopped into small pieces (do not mince as you want to have some "crunch")
3 pieces dried black fungus, soaked in water for 5 mins (you can replace this with 5 pieces of shitake mushroom)
1 1/2 Tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1 or 2 packets of round-shaped dumpling wrappers (store bought)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Water for boiling
Spring onions (chopped) – for garnishings

Seasonings for the Filing:

2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs cooking oil
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 to 1 tsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chinese cooking wine
1/2 tsp of white pepper powder


1) Remove For prawns, devein and rinse. Place prawns on top of kitchen towel to dry them out. Mince 1/3 portion of the prawns and the other 2/3 leave as whole.

2) Cut the soaked dried fungus into thin strips. Squeeze out the water and leave aside.

3) Combine all the filing ingredients into a bowl. Add in the seasoning and mix thoroughly. Cover bowl with clingwrap and place in the fridge for about 1 to 2 hours.

Wrapping & Cooking:

1) Dry your hands properly before you start wrapping the dumplings.

2) Place dumpling wrapper on your palm, put 1 Tbsp or slightly more of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Do not overstuff the dumpling as the wrapper will break easily.

3) Wet the edge of one half of the wrapper. Then fold into half and seal by pressing firmly (edge to edge).

4) Place the prepared dumplings onto a tray or plate dusted with a bit of plain flour to avoid them from sticking together. (At this stage you can also freeze your dumplings to be used another day. Just ensure that you separate each layer with a plastic wrap to prevent them from sticking together.)

5) Fill a large cooking pot with 2/3 full of water and bring it to a boil. Divide the dumplings into 2 batches and then place each dumpling into the water, one at a time. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to prevent them from sticking together.

6) Bring the water to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, reduce heat to low. Cook without the lid on and do this process until the filing is cooked. Do not cook too long as the wrapper may tear.

7) When the dumpling is cooked, turn off the heat. Place cooked dumplings into a serving bowl. Pour chicken or vegetable stock into the bowl and sprinkle chopped spring onion as garnish.

dumpling 3

dumpling 1

dumpling 4

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Garden Fondant Cake

I was recently asked by a close girlfriend of mine to make an 8" fondant cake and a larger sponge cake for her daughter's 9th birthday as well as her first holy communion. The event was last Sunday and would be held at the church premise after Sunday mass. After thinking about of a design that would be nice for a little girl, I settled on a garden theme. And for the larger cake it was a vanilla sponge cake with sliced fresh strawberries in between the layers covered with fresh whipped cream. The strawberry cake had great reviews because it was extremely soft and light. I had to run to a couple of supermarkets just looking for strawberries … luckily I managed to get some as they are currently off season. I had even thought about using frozen ones but it would likely have compromised the texture of the cake.

The fondant cake was a banana chocolate fudge cake which I had made on several other occasions. I added another half of the recipe to enable me to bake a two layer 8” cake which suited this order nicely. This particular recipe is absolutely easy to put together. You just need to weigh out all the ingredients and then incorporate them together in one large bowl. I didn’t even have to take out my cake mixer for this job – a wooden spoon or a whisk (which was what I used) will do the job. Don’t get thrown off if the batter looks watery .. it’s suppose to be like this. This will result in a very moist fudgy cake.

Garden cake 3

Garden cake 2

Chocolate Banana Cake
Recipe Adapted from Rodmell, Jane. Best Summer Weekends Cookbook. Cottage Life Books. Toronto: 2004
(Serves 16)


2 cups (400 grams) granulated white sugar (I reduced this to 1 1/2 cups)
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 - 3 medium sized bananas)
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) corn, safflower or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache Frosting:

8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (14 gram) unsalted butter

Method for the Cake:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan. Set aside. (My recipe was 1.5 times of original and I could manage 2 layers of 8" cake)

2) In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3) In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mashed bananas, water, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir, or whisk, until combined. You will notice that the batter is quite thin. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

4) Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cooled, frost with the Ganache.

Method for the Ganache:

1) Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel, or heatproof bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil.

2) Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. When Ganache has completely cooled, beat until soft and fluffy. Then spread the frosting on top of the cake.

Garden cake 1

Garden cake 4

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mini Burgers aka Sliders

I certainly do love a juicy burger with a soft fluffly bun to go with it. There is nothing worst than eating a bun that is hard and thick and with a meat patty that is dry and tasteless. I think this would be an absolute sin!

This particular burger bun recipe comes from Grace of Kitchen Corner . I had the priviledge to sample this when I attended a bloggers meetup and Grace had kindly contributed her burgers as part of the scrumptious feast we had. After the first bite I knew I had to try my hand at making them. So it was a few weeks after that (ok I know ... this is a very late post) that I set one Sunday to make them from scratch, and this including the meat patty as well. By the way, this is also the first time I am making bread using the "water roux" method.

This particular recipe makes for 8 normal sized burger buns. However I decided to go for mini sliders instead .. guess this is the rage right now. I ended up with about 15 mini burger buns. I followed Grace's tip as well which was to make the buns first. After they are baked, I could then judge the size of meat patties I had to make thereafter.



Mini Burgers aka Sliders
Makes 8 burger buns


210g bread flour
56g plain flour
20g milk powder
42g caster sugar
half teaspoon of salt
6g yeast
30g beaten eggs
85g water
84g water dough
22g unsalted butter

Recipe for the water dough "water roux":

Cook 125g water with 25g bread flour at medium low heat, keep stirring until it become thicken and no lumps left. If you've a candy thermometer, measure it until the temperature turn to 65C then turn of the heat. If you don't have one, cook it until it is like baby porridge consistency. Transfer to a clean bowl to cool down.


1) Place all the ingredients for kneading except the butter until everything come together and become a smooth dough then add in the butter a little at a time.

2) Let the dough slowly absorb the butter then turn to speed two if you are using kitchenaid mixer. Knead until the dough no more sticking at the side of the mixing bowl and the dough should be very smooth and elastic.

3) Let it proof for 40 minutes in a clean bowl cover with cling warp.

4) Divide the dough into even size of 8 portions or any size you like it to be then let it rest for 10 minutes.

5) Shape the dough into smooth round shape. Prepare some water on a a clean plate and place a kitchen towel on the top.

6) Damp the surface of each dough and run the damp surface around a bowl of sesame seeds. Place the dough on a baking tray and let the it proof for 40 minutes. Bake at 180C for 15 minutes

Beef Burger Patties
Makes 8 burgers


2 lbs lean ground beef
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumb
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mixed dried herbs
4 Tbsp hickory barbecue sauce
1 Tbsp worchester sauce
6 Tbsp olive oil (for frying)


1) Mix together ground round, beaten eggs, onions, soda crackers, garlic, salt, pepper and barbecue sauce. Mix until well incorporated. Leave in the fridge for about half an hour.

2) Remove from fridge and divide into 8 equal sized patties.

3) In a frying pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Cook untill desired doness.


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