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Posts tagged “chinese mushrooms

On the Trail of the Phoenix – Chap Chye… A Revisit

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Chap Chye is a quintessential dish for anyone who takes an interest in Peranakan food to learn to cook . It has its roots in Chinese cuisine of course but has since become deeply ingrained and naturalised into the Straits Chinese way of cooking. For us, Chap Chye is a dish which never fail to make its appearance on the dining table whenever we celebrate a major festival at my Grandma’s. Like I’d mentioned before, this dish together with kari ayam and ngoh hiang are hailed as the “holy trinity” which reminds me much of my grandma’s cooking even until today. It is her speciality, which she faithfully prepared the day before, in full knowing that the dish takes a good overnight rest for the flavours to develop and mature. Traditionally, chap chye is a must whenever there is ancestral prayers, alongside other dishes like pongteh but as the generations evolved, the rule for chap chye as a laok semayang has relaxed over time as it is now commonly enjoyed even over simple family dinners.

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巴生肉骨茶 Klang Bak Kut Teh

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Bak Kut Teh for us has always been a treat since childhood. My family stayed in the Whampoa area when I was a small boy, which is not far from Balestier Road, whose shophouses are dotted with Bak Kut Teh shops, all claiming to be the “most original”, the “most authentic” or the first to set up shop here. Whichever the case, I’d never eaten at any of these Bak Kut Teh joints when I was young because the price was really prohibitive. The cost for a bowl of Bak Kut Teh with rice for one could easily settle dinner for my family of four at the Whampoa Hawker Centre nearby. Moreover, my mum always cook our meals which is more economical, not to mention homely.

Soup is a big thing in our family but usually kept very simple.  It would be cabbage, peanuts or black beans cooked with some chopped pork ribs or lean pork and chicken feet. Once a while, when spare ribs were more affordable and the costs more bearable, my mum would cook Bak Kut Teh, using pre-mixed sachets from the neighbourhood grocery store. So my childhood impression of Bak Kut Teh has always been really peppery and somewhat savory, which I got to know later on as being “Singapore-Teochew Style”. When I learned about the Hokkien style Bak Kut Teh from Klang Selangor, I remember being quite fascinated by it. The idea of a Chinese herbal soup is not alien to us. Mum cooked a variety of traditional soups using Chinese herbs all the time, mostly for their medicinal properties to cure certain minor ailments or boost our “qi“. But the herbs used, together with their beneficial effects, not to mention bitter taste are the key components of the concoction while any meat, be it chicken or pork added to form a broth simply act as a vector. So for the pork ribs to take centrestage and soya sauce subsequently added into a soup, the idea was quite mind-boggling. So when Selangor MFF was announced, I knew I have to try to cook the Hokkien-style Bak Kut Teh, a delicacy which Klang is mostly known for, not only by the locals but also foodies from other states in the Peninsula as well as folks from as far south as Singapore.

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Penang Jiu Hu Char

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Straits Chinese cuisine is a conglomeration of many other culinary disciplines, bringing together elements from traditional Malay, Chinese, Indian and even Thai cooking to create the eclectic spread of visually stunning and mouth-watering dishes, both sweet and savory, which bear testimony to the glorious cultural heritage and lavishly colourful lifestyles the Babas and Nyonyas of the yesteryears were so well-known for. Many Peranakan dishes are characterised by their rich and robust flavours, be it the tingling sourish hues from asam-based dishes, to the fiery heat from sambal belacan-inspired creations, or the collagen-packed soups. This is usually perpetuated through the liberal use of spices, herbs, condiments and seasoning, all aimed at pushing the limits of one’s palate sensations and experience. Once in a while, we come across a dish seemingly more “subtle”  when compared to the others amongst its ranks. A pearl in tranquil elegance amongst the bedazzling glittering of the other gems. Jiu Hu Char must surely be one such dish.

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