Saturday, November 25, 2006

Spicy Thai Green Mango Salad

Spicy thai mango salad

Sorry for not keeping to my words that I would be posting the recipe of the braised pork belly with yam. Have been crazily busy over the past two weeks. Anyway, here's a new dish that I adapted from a recipe online. Modified the ingredients a bit, to cater to what was available in my refrigerator. This is a really easy dish to make, the key of success lies in the right type of mangoes. But can be a bit time consuming, as a lot of slicing and cutting is involved.

I have always been yearning to make this dish but never had the chance to get the right mangoes. The mangoes that I previously bought were either tasteless or infested by worms when I cut them. You will need unripe sourish sweet mangoes but the flesh should be preferably yellowish (turning orange) but still very firm. This creates the best taste.

Here are the ingredients I used:
1. 2 medium sized unripe mango - shredded thinly. You can use a shredder but for best aesthetics and mouthfeel, use a sharp knife to slice thinly (about 2 - 3mm thick) and then cut into thin strips.
2. Dried cuttle fish - 2 - 3 pieces, seasoned and ready to be eaten. I bought this from the night market. Tear up the cuttle fish into small pieces.
3. Ginger flowers (Bunga kantan) - you just need a few petals, slice really thinly, about 1 mm wide and 10 mm long.
4. Half a lemon grass - cut the lemon grass length wise and slice really thinly.
5. 2 - 3 stalks of coriander leaves, only use the leaves.
6. 3 - 4 chili padi (small fiery hot chilies)
7. 2 tbsp roasted crushed peanuts (optional)

1. 4 shallots, thinly sliced
2. 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3. 1 tbsp of fish sauce
4. 2 tsp of organic cane sugar
5. 1 tsp of sea salt
6. 2 tbsp of cooking oil (groundnut oil is the best)
7. Juice of 2 kalamansi lime (limau kasturi)
8. Dried shrimps (1 tbsp) - soaked before using.

1. Prepare all the ingredients in PART A and mix together (except for dried cuttle fish, roasted peanuts and coriander leaves) in a big bowl.
2. Heat the cooking oil in pan before adding the shallots and garlic. Fry till golden, add the dried shrimps and fry for another 1 minute. Add the rest of the PART B ingrediets (mix them in a bowl first before adding to the wok) and heat for about 1 minute. Turn off the fire and dish out the sauce, mix into the big bowl with all the PART A ingredients.
3. Stir the salad evenly, and transfer to a plate. Garnish with coriander leaves and dried cuttle fish. If you like peanuts, sprinkle with roasted crushed peanuts. The peanuts I had in the fridge were too old and moldy so I decided to omit them. But the salad tasted just as good!

Results of experiment:
Yummy yummy! A very appetising salad with vibrant colours, good subject for food photography! The slight pungent ginger flower and lemon grass really spiced up the dish's aroma and flavour!

Spicy thai mango salad-close up

Spicy thai mango saladSpicy thai mango saladSpicy thai mango salad

Spicy thai mango salad
This version uses riper mangoes and crushed roasted peanuts. Didn't taste that good because the mangoes were too ripe :-(

Friday, November 10, 2006

Braised pork belly with yam

This is a really time consuming dish.

Took me 4 hours in total yesterday before the dish was finally served on the dinner table. It was meant to be lunch but ended up being dinner! :-S

I am a die-hard fan of this dish, partly because of the yam and the fattenning layers of the pork belly and the gravy, yummy yummy! I know I know, evil but tastes oh so good. This is a rather popular Chinese dish in Malaysia, originated from China (with different variations across the country). I've only eaten it at restaurants or roadside stalls but never cooked. So this was my first attempt!

Found the recipe on the net, but it was in Chinese. Will try to put up the recipe in English soon!

The end result was not too bad, except that the skin of the pork was still a bit tough after steaming for 2 hours, the taste was pretty good though!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Close encounter with Michael Wong (Guang Liang - 光良) - more pictures (click pictures for larger versions)

For some weird reasons, I couldn't upload any more photos after I've published the post, so here are some more pictures.

The pictures of Guang Liang giving his speech, I was just right in front of the podium, cool man!

Guang Liang taken together with my client, Tan Lay Seong.

Close encounter with Michael Wong (Guang Liang - 光良)

Okay, I know this has nothing much to do with cooking but I'm just very inspired by him after spending a whole afternoon and evening "with" him and thought I have to pen it down.

Guang Liang is the honorary recipient for the Outstanding Young Malaysian Awards 2006 in the category of Cultural Achievement. I've always admired his talents, and have listened to his songs from his first album till now. What I admire about him, is not just his music talents, but his perseverance and passion about what he does best, and also his constant strive for perfection, ensuring that he only produces the best piece of music.

For those who don't know him, Guang Liang is a popular Chinese Malaysian singer and songwriter who is also internationally popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China; and has won numerous important music awards held locally and in the above mentioned countries. He was also the first Malaysian singer who has his concert held in Hong Kong Coliseum, the largest indoor stadium in Hong Kong.

Actually my client for a book I translated recently is the merit certificate recipient for the personal achievement and development category, so I had a free ticket to the dinner cum award presentation. The press conference was held in the afternoon before the dinner and I had the chance of sitting just 3 feet away from Guang Liang, lucky me! I was actually there to help take pictures for my client but spent more time looking and taking pictures of Guang Liang instead haha.

The award presentation was very inspirational, not that it makes me want to be world and Malaysia famous like Guang Liang, but it has inspired me that I should do something for the less fortunate. Which is where cooking comes in. I've wanted to be able to feed the poor and the less fortunate for free. Hopefully this will one day become a reality. I believe that what I have today is a result of what I've done in the past, and deep down inside, I know I have a mission to accomplish, not just for myself, but for the society at large.

My new kitchen will hopefully be a place to cook for charity, without asking for anything in return. It will also be a place that people can come in to experiment new recipes and get together with friends, loved ones, or like-minded people. It's not difficult by the sound of it, but what is tough is how to implement and sustain it.

I am a firm believer in the power of dreams. Without a dream, your wish will never come true. When I first started as a full-time interpreter, I set a resolution that I wanted to become the most sought after interpreter in Malaysia in five years' time. Two and a half years have passed, while I'm not sure if I am already in that position, I have already carved a name for myself in the interpreting profession. When you have a dream, coupled with hard work and perserverance, it will become a reality some day. Just like what my ex has said, and has become a principle that I practise: "Don't try your best, DO your best," and you will definitely be there, one day.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Seared scallops with gingered oyster sauce and soy sauce

Pan-fried scallops with gingered oyster and soy sauce Pan-fried scallops with gingered oyster sauce and soy sauce

Created this a couple of weeks back. A really expensive dish. A few days before I made this, I had a painful experience of being cheated with "fake scallops" that tasted rubbery and chewy (would not tear even if u chew hard) at the wet market. So this one is the REAL scallops that I bought from Village Grocer in Bangsar Village.

Ingredients (Serves 3):
9 jumbo size scallops, pat dry using kitchen paper towel (defrost if frozen)
1/2 cup groundnut oil
10 thin young ginger slices, shredded thinly
2 sprigs of spring onion
2 sprigs of coriander (cilantro)
1/2 red chili for garnishing
Light soya sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp oyster sauce

1. Thinly shred the spring onions into 2 inch long strips and tear up the cilantro. Clean the seeds of the red chili and shred it thinly into 2 cm long strips. Soak the spring onion and red chili in water (preferably purified) for about 30 mins to get a curling effect.
2. In a wok (you can use a pan if you don't have a wok), heat up half of the groundnut oil, sesame oil and add in the shredded ginger, fry till golden. Dish out the oil and ginger and leave in a small bowl.
3. Heat up pan, heat the remaining groundnut oil and add in the scallops.
4. Sear the scallops until golden on each side, takes about 2-3 minutes for each side. Dish out the scallops, drain the oil on some kitchen paper towels, and arrange 3 scallops on each scallop shell (in my case, the shells came from Sydney when I was there for work early this year). If you don't have the scallop shells, no worries! You can use white Chinese soup spoons instead, like what you see in my "Props hunting day" post.

5. Mix the groundnut oil with fried ginger strips with light soya sauce and oyster sauce. Pour the sauce mixture over the scallops and garnish with the spring onions, coriander and chili strips.

Note: It is best to get a good quality light soya sauce that is not too salty. Otherwise, it will taste too overpowering and you will not get to taste the scallops well.
Pan-fried scallops with gingered oyster and soy sauce

Fake "scallops" version, created a few days before the REAL scallops (without additional lighting, just built-in flash):
Pan-fried local

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Props hunting day

This was meant to be written for yesterday but I was too tired after reaching home and had to wake up like 6 am this morning. Yesterday went to Ikea and Jaya Jusco in MidValley Megamall to hunt for props. Not that I needed them urgently, but just wanted to satisfy my craze for the white Chinese soup spoons and wooden chopsticks to be part of my props. Ikea was for lighting. I have a simple lighting temporarily set up while waiting the right time (money and space concerns) to get proper studio lighting for food photography.

Props are a very important part of my food photography endeavour. They make my food creation more appealing, creative and different (or ruin it otherwise). Plus I get bored of the old ones pretty fast so I have to keep getting new stuff haha. Those I bought yesterday were specially selected for Chinese and Asian dishes, to give them a oriental feel.

The results? Four white chinese soup spoons, ten pairs of sandalwood chopsticks, one piece of orangy red table napkin and a cheap halogen table lamp from Ikea. Oh, not forgetting a piece of acrylic table top (marble-like) and rejected laminated wood kitchen cabinet door given for free from my kitchen cabinet builder, can use as background for my creations. Yay...happy happy!