3 Nov 2014

hakka pan mee

Recently at uni, I learnt that one's heritage language and culture is lost at a rate of roughly 30% through each generation. Realisation hit me a long time ago that it would be up to us - the younger generation to learn and preserve it for the future. I'm not referring to traditional Chinese proverbs but more of the food culture. Years ago, I used to lament how no one learnt how to make grandma's home cooked dishes so I made it a point to learn at least one when I went back earlier in the year. I did end up with more scribbled recipes that I would have imagined but haven't exactly replicated anything besides the chiffon cake which I learnt the year before. But I like to think the initiative is something I can use to draw back on in the future.

Making the kon lo (dry tossed) pan mee earlier today, it reminded me that there is still hope. The dish above reminded me of the time I ate out with my cousins by the roadside made by a group of youngsters complete with freshly made noodles and a queue to boot. I'm sure I'll be able to order pan mee at Malaysian restaurants, but I get a kick of learning how to make it myself. I've done it before (1 2 3) but I've been reluctant to share my notes because there are no proper measurements due to the spontaneous nature old school cooking in my house.

Since eating my mum's pan mee earlier last year, I waited until she made it again so I could document it properly. There is no proper recipe but the notes below are actually way more detailed than mine which is pretty much an ingredient list. But I think it's quite flexible if you use it as a guideline and adapt to your own tastes. Just remember to:

1. Look up a proper recipe first if you are unfamiliar with cooking this
2. Taste test continuously  

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Notes on my Mum's Hakka pan mee (客家板面)

Stock:
Place two chicken carcasses and 0.5-1 kg pork bones in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, drain and clean the 'dirty stuff' off the carcass/bones under running cold water. Return to the stockpot with a handful of shiitake stems and fill with water. Bring to a boil. Add some fried anchovies. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer for at least 1.5 hours. Skim scum off the top occasionally. Season with salt, fish sauce (optional), a lump of rock sugar and chicken stock powder.

Fried anchovies (ikan bilis):
Wash a generous handful of dried anchovies and drain well. Deep fry in hot oil on low heat until crispy. Drain and reserve oil for later. Add 1/4 portion of the fried anchovies to the stock and drain the rest with a paper towel. Set aside for later. 

Wood ear fungus:
Soak with cold water overnight or hot water if using on the day. Trim off woody ends and cut into thick strips.

Pork mince:
Saute thinly sliced garlic cloves in reserved oil from the anchovies (flavour bomb!!). Add sliced wood ear fungus and stir fry before adding pork mince (about 100g per person). Season with white and black pepper and chicken stock powder. Finish by seasoning with soy sauce and sesame oil. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Vegetables:
Blanch and drain leafy green vegetables of your choice. We had them with bok choy this time, but it tastes great with stir fried amaranth (yin choy) as well. 

Noodles:
Cook fresh noodles (we like thick Shanghai noodles) according to packet instructions/"the pinch test". Drain and run under cold water to cool to prevent sticking. Maybe we'll try making the noodles next time...

To serve (soup version):
Arrange cooked noodles and toppings (vegetables, pork mince, fried anchovies, fried shallots, sliced spring onions) into a bowl and carefully ladle in hot stock. 

To serve (dry tossed version):
Toss cooked noodles with oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, white pepper, garlic oil (or melted lard!) and a bit of the stock. Arrange toppings (vegetables, pork mince, fried anchovies, fried shallots, sliced spring onions) into a bowl and you're good to go.

31 Oct 2014

more bread!

Earlier this week, my relatives from Malaysia made a brief stop over in Melbourne and I took them to DFO (shopping outlet) after class where they shopped until they were kicked out! Instant A+ if shopping was an actual subject. In between waiting and running errands, I spent some time in a book store and picked up Bread Revolution: Rise and Bake by Duncan Glendinning and Patrick Ryan. I initially wanted it for the bagel recipe, but the more I read it in store, I liked how simple everything was explained. 

I baked two potato and rosemary loaves and was pretty happy with my first attempt! It was soft and had a slight bite to it and was exactly the same the following day despite not adding any additives to it. It had a thin crust straight from the oven but became soft when it cooled. This was my fault because I was careless and forgot to lower the temperature to suit my oven and fell asleep when it was baking (!) Thankfully, a friend messsaged me at the right time saving my bread from being burnt. Flavour wise, I'll need to put more rosemary and roasted garlic because I could barely taste it.

Whilst waiting for the bread to prove, I also made the dark and white mini muffins using salted dark chocolate instead of chocolate chips. Interestingly, the picture in the book was different to the recipe. I was surprised it contained no sugar because natural yogurt was used and it's quite sour. I did make a few amendments to it but l will try again with the original recipe next time. 

Edit: 03/11/14 The bread stayed soft for 3-4 days and made a great toast as well. I tried the original muffin recipe today and didn't like it. Possible misprint error??

10 Oct 2014

bo lo bao

Another Asian bakery bun ticked off the list! When I was a kid I used to always wonder why they were called bo lo bao (pineapple bun) when it didn't taste or have any pineapple inside. Apparently it is named like that due to the look of the bun especially when additional carvings are made on top of the cookie crust prior baking. The usual bakery I go to don't carve their buns, so I didn't bother.

Bo lo bao reminds me of the Japanese melon bread in which a cookie crust is placed on top of the bun prior baking. Some of the issues on baking this type of bread is explained in Yakitate!! Japan during the melon challenge. I think it was on the lines of the different optimum temperatures of the bread and cookie thus the cookie will either be under baked or the bread becomes too dry. Therefore Kazuma Azuma, decides to bakes them separately and sandwiches the cookie to the crust with whipped cream prior serving. Combining the two components together later helped maintained the softness of the bun and the crispiness of the cookie. (Japan #58 has been produced in real life too.) 

Fortunately, the problem doesn't apply to the HK version, but the topping does get soft and moist the day after. But if you have leftovers, not to worry! Cut them in half, pop them into the oven until the crust crisps and enjoy with a slab of butter in the middle. 

Serve with some milk tea for a proper Hong Kong style 下午茶 (afternoon tea)!

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HK style pineapple bun (bo lo bao)  (菠萝包)     makes 10 regular or 20 mini buns
method and topping adapted from Phoebe's More Than Bread

bread
250ml milk (or 2 heaped Tb of milk powder + water)
60ml cooking oil
80g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp bread improver (optional)
450g bread flour
1 3/4 tsp dry yeast

topping
60g unsalted butter, softened
80g raw sugar
100g plain flour, sifted
10g custard / Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted 
1/4 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted
1/2 large egg, beaten

1/2 large egg, for the glaze

Place bread ingredients into the bread machine bowl according to manufacturer instructions. Set to 'dough function' (30 mins knead, 60 minutes prove)*. Add a tablespoon of water or two if the dough appears to be dry after a few turns.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until combined. Form a ball, wrap with cling film and refrigerate until required.

Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface after the first prove. Gently flatten dough and divide into 10 x 86g or 20 x 43g** dough pieces. Shape them into small balls and transfer to a lined baking tray. Ensure there is ample space for the bread to rise. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place until dough doubles in size***.

Roll bun topping thinly in between two sheets of cling film**** when the second prove is almost finished. Use a cookie cutter about the same size as your bun and cut out rounds.

Lightly brush bread tops with beaten egg and gently secure the cut out topping. Brush with beaten egg again.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius for 10 - 15 minutes or until crust is golden and crunchy. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately. 

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*Alternatively, combine all dry ingredients and form a well. Combine all wet ingredients and gradually pour into the dry ingredients to form a rough dough. Transfer onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead until smooth. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size - this is the first prove.

**I find that the dough does not rise as well if I divide them into small pieces. I recommend making the regular sized buns (86g dough).

***For the second prove, I put them in a 28-30 degrees Celsius oven for 40 - 60 minutes. Brush with beaten egg every 20 minutes.

****Topping will crumble if it is too cold, take out 5 minutes prior using.