Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE MAKING OF LUXURIOUS XO SAUCE!!

When I first heard of XO sauce many many years ago, I thought it was a highly intoxicated concoction specially used for cooking. During my first visit to Melbourne in year 1992, I finally had the chance to try this luxurious sauce at a Chinese restaurant. Immediately I fell in love with this spicy sauce. I didn't end up drunk because there is absolutely no alcohol in it at all. My brother-in-law told me that XO sauce is actually created in Hong Kong and according to Wikipedia, this spicy seafood sauce consisting of roughly chopped dried seafood was introduced in the 1980s which is part of the Cantonese cuisine.

Fast forward to year 2004, just a day before my wedding, my bro-in-law who is in charged of cooking up a storm for my guests during my tea ceremony decided to share his trade secret with me. Back then, I didn't really pay attention to what he taught me. Who could anyway especially when it was a day before your own wedding? I was more concerned if my tulip bouquet could last till the next day or if there would be any acne breakout on my face. What I do remember was his constant reminder that I should never ever share this recipe with anyone else. For the next few years, he was constantly being mentioned by my group of 'Ji Muis' (sisters) who came for my tea ceremony. They just couldn't stop raving about the tasty XO sauce he served together with his special nasi goreng and fried noodles.
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Yesterday, my bro-in-law taught me once again his recipe for this sauce. He didn't warn me about sharing the recipe this time but the moment I took out my camera, I assured him that I would not leak out his trade secret by listing the exact amount of ingredients used. Anyway, as an experienced chef, he doesn't even need to weigh or measure his ingredients. The recipe is right inside his head! Don't mistaken him as being selfish, the ability of a chef to make good cooking sauces is the key to survival over here.

The recipe that I am going to list out here is just an approximate because we didn't measure or weigh our ingredients at all. Firstly, we need about 5 big onions and a handful of shallots, roughly chopped. Also finely dice a clove of garlic (not in the picture).
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Soak to soften about 200 grams of dried shrimp. Drain well and using a food processor, blend it until it is finely shredded. DO NOT PUT any water into the food processor!
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I found this nice cut of salted Ikan Kurau or Threadfin at the Chinese grocery shop. Came all the way from my home country!! I am so gonna buy more this weekend to have it steamed with pork. Yum Yum!! Soak to soften and roughly chop it as well.
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If you wanna make really luxurious XO sauce, you can opt to use Jinhua ham; expensive but very tasty. Otherwise, you can substitute with ham or bacon. Of course I vote for bacon especially when there is not much price difference from the bland tasting ham. Most importantly, the flavour from the bacon fats further enhance the taste of the XO sauce. Remove the skin (if any) and finely dice it too.
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Most expensive ingredient would be the dried scallop. Soak to soften the dried scallop, steam until soft and drain well. We used about a bowl of soften dried scallop.
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My bro-in-law used a red capsicum mainly to achieve a bright red colour. For those who love a spicy kick to it, I thought using red chilies would be a great substitute too. He said if capsicum and fresh chilies not available, substitute with sweet chili powder. Blend the capsicum and drain off excess liquid from the paste from time to time.
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I didn't manage to see how much oil he put into the wok but I guess about 2 - 3 cups or enough to cover all the chopped onions, shallots and garlic. Keep stirring over low to medium fire. By the way, the whole process of cooking the sauce (excluding the chopping and grounding) took us about an hour.
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Ingredients are added in stages, starting from those with high water content to those with the least. A great tip I learnt yesterday was the way to judge when to put in the next ingredient. When you put the onions into the oil, you will notice big bubbles bubbling away. When the onions start drying up, you will see lots of frothy foam forming on the surface. This is the perfect time to put in the next ingredient!
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Capsicum paste went in next. The moment you put in the paste, the big bubbles return. Keep stirring until the frothy foam reappears.
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Next to go in....Bacon! Again, continue to stir until frothy foam reappears. MMmm....at this stage, you could smell a wonderful aroma from the sizzling bacon fats.
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Put in the salted fish next, followed by dried shrimp.
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Lastly, put in the dried scallop.
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For seasoning, put in some sugar, salt, oyster sauce and chicken granules (optional). For a darker reddish colour, put in a dash of dark soy sauce. It tastes much better with added chopped chilies. Allow the sauce to cool completely before storing in DRY containers. Remember to use a DRY spoon to scoop the sauce, otherwise it could get spoiled easily. You can serve the sauce as condiment or add some to your stir fry dishes.
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On those days when you are eating alone or have absolutely no idea of what to cook for dinner, just put a generous spoonful of XO sauce onto a bowl of hot steaming rice....I can be assured that you will be running back to the kitchen for another bowl of rice! That is what I am gonna do now......yum yum yum!!!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LOQUAT WITH DRIED APRICOT KERNEL TONG SUI

It's HARVESTING time!!!

No! No! I am not referring to my bountiful crops in Farm Town or Country Story or Farmville or the endless farms I owned in Facebook. Goodness, do you know how much time I actually spent in Facebook everyday tending my farms and restaurants? More than a full-time job! If I could convert all these virtual games into the real world, I am a rich woman now.

Anyway, Loquat is in season!! As mentioned in my previous post, Loquat is also known as 'Pipa' in Cantonese because the pear-shaped fruits resemble the Chinese musical instrument Pipa. Most probably heard of Pipa because of the well-known traditional Chinese cough mixture "King To Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa" or fondly known as "Ubat Batuk Cap Ibu dan Anak" in Malaysia.

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Best eaten only when it is ripe as it could be really sour when it is not ready. It sent my nephew running around the yard screaming when he took a bite of the unripe loquat few weeks ago. Did a bit of 'googling' on loquat and found out that it could be used to make jam, chutney, pie and even wine too.
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Since the weather is getting warmer over here, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to boil the loquat with rock sugar and stock it up inside the fridge. Preparing the loquat was not as easy as I thought it would be. Similar to apple, it goes brown very fast. I ran out of lemon so I sprinkled a bit of salt into the pot of water to prevent oxidation. Oh, be prepared to end up with brownish finger nails too!
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I added some dried apricot kernels into the drink as they are good for throat and dry cough. Although the two packets below looked the same, they are actually different. One is called Nam Hanh (south apricot kernel?), the other is Bac Hanh (north apricot kernel?). I really could not tell the difference as they tasted and looked the same! I tried to google for an answer but couldn't find any. Anyone could enlighten me on the difference between the north and the south thingy?? Anyway, the apricot kernel is similar to almond taste but at a much milder level, a level that I could still tolerate. But if you really dislike almond taste, omit it altogether.
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To make approximately 5 cups of the drink, I used about one bowl of loquat flesh, 1 tablespoon of both the north and south apricot kernels, rock sugar and 2 liters of water and boil it over low fire for about an hour. I love the drink as it is so refreshing and soothing to the throat! I prefer to have it icy cold. Ahhh...time to boil more to prepare myself to this Thursday, a crazy maximum of 36 degree Celcius!!!

So, it's back to harvesting time...well...I mean in Facebook this time..hehehe.
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Monday, November 09, 2009

DEAR HUBBY......


My Dearest Hubby,


Remember I told you the other day that bro-in-law cooked a big yummy pot of stewed brisket, tripe and tendon?? Bro-in-law asked me to snap a photo to show you, so here you are, our lunch we had few days ago. It was even more flavourful after leaving it overnight..yummy!
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Look at this chunky piece of tendon! It was braised to perfection...the texture was just right...bouncy and gelatinous. Just the way you like it! Don't worry, bro-in-law promised to cook you a big pot when you are here.
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Weather is getting so much warmer nowadays. Gonna be 35 degree Celcius today and it is not even summer yet. I wonder how I could survive till end January. Good news is...all the fruit trees are full of fruits! The row of loquat trees are full of loquats now! I counted, there are 5 trees altogether!!
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Whenever I see the loquat tree, I will think of you. Remember this photo I took back in year 2006?? This was the first thing you did when you arrived at sis's place!
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Am waiting for a few more days before picking these loquat, known as 'pipa' in Chinese. This is the one they use to make the Chinese cough mixture so I guess should be good for throat. Perfect for the hot weather now.
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I have been eating lots of it and they are very sweet and juicy. Bro-in-law told me that I could double-boil it with rock sugar. Sounds good to me, maybe I should boil a big pot and put it in the fridge.
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Ooooo...the nectarine tree opposite sis's house is also fruiting! Lots and lots of it too! I think it should be ready by mid December...hehe..just can't wait to harvest them.
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By the way, Nathan want to show you this.....a picture of him all powered-up. He said he just couldn't wait to battle you in March! Ggggrrgggrrrr!!!
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I just can't wait to see you in January next year. Don't worry, I will definitely be back, you don't have to blackmail me by forbidding Pea and Pumpkin from webcam-ing with me, yah?
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Ok lah...I got to sign off now. Be good and take good good care of my two boys. I know you have been doing a good job.

Bye!!

Love,
Wifey

 

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