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Jiu Ceng Gao (九层糕)| Kueh Lapis Sagu

In Recipes, Singaporean on November 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

1. There are foods that taste great.
2. There are foods that are so pretty that they taste great even before they touch the tongue.
3. There are foods that taste great simply because you grew up with them.

And there are foods that fit all 3 categories:

I’d peel them layer….by layer….by layer…4, 5, 6th…… 7, 8th…and with brief hesitation, I’d nibble through the 9th and final of the rainbow-coloured soft n chewy layers, mm by mm by mm… mmmmm πŸ™‚ Happy food.

Of course, being a poor student with limited cash and limited space on the shelf, stocking up on all those colours is not economically nor logistically sensible.Β  Too bad that nyonya kueh doesn’t keep long (starch retrogrades and coconut milk goes rancid) and getting some from home on mama’s tab wouldn’t work. Surprise surprise, poorskinnychef makes her own, but with less colours in the equation:

The verdict: πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


Jiu Ceng Gao | Kueh Lapis Sagu Recipe modified from IndoLists

Ingredients:

  • 200g tapioca / sago starch
  • 100g rice flour
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 300ml water
  • 240g sugar
  • essence and colouring (I used pandan paste for green and rose paste for pink)

[use more tapioca starch for chewier texture, more coconut milk for stronger coconut flavour – this recipe yielded the same texture as the ones I have at home! soft yet springy!]

Method:

  1. Dissolve sugar in hot water to make a syrup and pour in coconut milk.
  2. Mix in starches with a hand whisk.
  3. Divide mixture into 3 portions (~350ml each)
  4. Grease a smooth-based tin (about 10” diameter or square tin would be even better for cutting later!) and heat in the steamer.
  5. Pour in 1/3 of white layer (~110-120ml) and steam for 3-4 min on high heat.
  6. Alternate with colours and steam each layer 3-4 min until 9 layers have been created!
  7. Cool, oil surfaces, unmould and cut into pieces with greased knife.
  8. Wrap pieces with greased plastic to prevent sticking!

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Steamed Sago Cake – Kueh Sagu

In Recipes, Singaporean on September 26, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I’ve been refraining as much as possible from buying new ingredients at the Asian supermarket, because they all come in packs of 500g – 1kg and I’m just about to move across town. Don’t want to be carting additional boxes of ingredients when I already have a massive amount of stuff to worry about. And so I decided to convert the remains of my packet of tapioca pearls into one of my favourite nyonya kueh for a recent international gathering. Steamed sago cake a.k.a. kueh sagu! But naturally, if I ever attempt to make anything, it’s of course ‘one of my favourites’, why else do I go through the effort then?


Just what is sago? And what are tapioca pearls and why do I seem to use it so interchangeably? NO, they are not FROG EGGS (in reference to their appearance) contrary to some Western belief that resulted from too much mischievous Asian teasing. Both are actually starches of very similar characteristics (transparent and chewy), and are produced in the form of granules or ‘pearls’ to be used conveniently for cooking. The former is obtained from the pith of the sago palm stem, while the latter is obtained from the cassava root. Nothing weird about it at all. Just starch, like potato starch, corn starch, wheat starch… made into a more convenient and potentially innovative form.

Yep, so here’s yet another green recipe (apart from ondeh ondeh and kueh dadar that I’ve been making frequently in the past year). It just happens that I never see any pressing need to obtain other colours for my recipes, apart from the green of my pandan paste. I hope that I’m not sending the wrong message that nyonya kueh are all green in colour, because they’re not and hopefully I will have a chance to show you soon πŸ™‚


Kueh Sagu Recipe modified from here

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pearl sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a few drops of pandan paste
  • 1/2 tsp pandan essence (or 1 tsp pandan essence + colouring)
  • 20g dessicated coconut with a pinch of salt mixed in

Method:

  1. Soak the pearls in a generous amount of water (1L maybe?) and leave aside for 1h. Will double to triple in volume.
  2. Drain away excess water then mix in sugar and pandan paste / essence.
  3. Transfer to a greased pot / bowl that fits in your steamer. Here’s how to do it if you don’t have a steamer.
  4. Steam on high heat for 20min.
  5. Cool and coat with dessicated coconut while cutting into bite-sized pieces.

Alternative spellings of the name: sago kueh / kuih sago

Variations on the recipe: create layers by splitting into 2 batches after flavouring with sugar and pandan essence. Add an additional few drops of pandan paste to colour one batch green. Steam the white layer for 10 min, then pour the green batch over and steam for another 20min.

Other variations: colour with other colours and make layers the same way, or use coconut palm sugar (gula melaka) in place of white sugar!

‘FAB’-Steamed Banana Cake

In Experimental, Friday Afternoon Baking, Recipes on May 29, 2010 at 12:57 am

Surprise surprise! Another steamed cake recipe! When I say I am obsessed with something, I really mean it. I’m not going to just let it go after one try. I’d do it / make it / eat it again and again. But eating too much of the same thing would result in Sensory Specific Satiety and a decreased desire to continue eating it. That is why I set out to make as many variations of it. Neh. That was just some lame attempt to scientifically justify my actions. I simply want my muffins and cakes lower in calories, in all sorts of flavours that I like, yet still soft and moist so that I can enjoy my cakes and still have caloric allowance to enjoy all the other pleasurable foods that are out there waiting for me to enjoy. Is that too much to ask for?

You might have realized that the basic recipe of flour-sugar-egg-baking powder limits the possibilities of variations to dry flavouring ingredients like spices, essences and currants. With just 4 ingredients on the list, it might seem rather difficult to make the ingredient substitutions… but I realized it actually isn’t that complicated, really.

I found a recipe on chowtimes for steamed banana cake to make as a reward for my project group’s sensory panel. A quick comparison with the basic steamed cake recipe shows a partial substitution of egg (wet ingredient) with mashed banana (wet ingredient), and a larger amount of baking powder (1.5tsp vs 0.5tsp) to provide additional air bubbles for the rising of the cake that was originally contributed by the egg foam. The teaspoon of oil added contributes to a softer crumb texture as there is now less egg yolk (I’ll try it next time without oil just to see how significant the difference is).

The result? Soft and moist with a lovely flavour like banana quickbread. πŸ˜€


Steamed Banana Cake Recipe
adapted from ChowTimes

  • 1 ripe banana (~100g) roughly mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oil (optional)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 50g sugar (or adjust batter to desired sweetness)
  • 100g flour
  1. Heat up your steamer.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together and fold in the dry ingredients quickly.
  3. Pour into dish and steam for ~15min. (I made one 15cm x 22cm oval cake, 3-4cm in height)
  4. Voila! Done in a jiffy!

Variation #1: with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon added. While this was steaming, I mixed together Variation #2: with 1 heaping tsp cocoa powder added.
The cinnamon version was so well-received that I made another for tomorrow’s Project Emotions Picnic in Sweden πŸ™‚ This time with 1.5 times the above recipe with 1 tsp of cinnamon, additional 1 tbsp of water to substitute the extra half an egg, an extra handful of raisins and a half banana sliced and arranged on top! πŸ˜€

Steamy Solution to Low-Fat Cake-Making

In Chinese, Recipes on May 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm

My recent interest in steaming has escalated into a full-blown obsession with steamed cakes.

Yes, steamed cakes! Soft fluffy and moist sponge cakes in 30min or less! …no more long lists of ingredients, nor lengthy energy-consuming pre-heating of oven, nor even a need for sticks of buttery unhealthiness to keep the cake moist… not even a messy cleaning aftermath. It saves time, it saves energy, it saves money — absolutely PERFECT for a busy and poor student who craves a sweet treat.

Steaming cake eradicates the problem of tough chewy textures that often plague low fat / fat-free baking. With a little help from baking powder and whisked eggs, cooking the cake in the moist heat of the steamer results in a quick rise and quick set of the sponge cake due to the more effective heat transfer via steam. At the same time, the steam keeps the cake from drying out as it would during oven-baking. This gives the cake a nice open texture with good moisture retention without having to add a whole lot of empty calories to prevent the flour proteins from forming tight gluten networks that result in a tough final product.

I hereby declare the end of my struggles with fat-replacement in baked muffins and cakes.

Just steam ’em!

Steamed Egg Cake Recipe adapted from HappyHomeMaker

  • 3 eggs
  • 150g sugar (I used half brown half white)
  • 100g flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Optional: Raisins / Vanilla essence / Almond essence / Ground cinnamon
  1. Heat up the water in your steamer.
  2. Separate the egg whites from the yolks and whisk the whites adding sugar halfway until stiff peaks form. (Alternatively, beating the whole eggs till foamy will work too, but takes longer.)
  3. Mix in the yolks and fold in flour and baking powder.
  4. Add in 1 tsp of essence and a large handful of raisins at the end if you’d like.
  5. Pour batter into a dish and steam for ~20min in the heated steamer. (Mine: 20cm diameter cake, ~4cm height)

Chinese Steamed Bun – εŒ…子

In Chinese, Recipes on May 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’ve always thought that I needed one of these in order to steam my food:

Apparently not! As long as you have a pot / pan (with a lid) that is big enough to enclose some kind of container on a stand (e.g. small bowl), steaming is just as easy as putting a pot of water to boil. Here’s how I do mine: fill the base of a large pot with 3-4cm height of water, place a bowl in the centre, then I lay the plate of food to be steamed on top of the bowl. πŸ™‚

Great. Now you have no excuse not to try out steamed recipes.

Steaming food is a healthier choice because it doesn’t require the addition of oil and nutrients are not leached into boiling water. Moreover, the steam keeps the food moist and tender…AND busy / lazy people don’t have to watch it closely (as long as the water at the base does not dry out, your food and house will be safe) so it’s easy to cook the food well without spending much time at the stove.

Evidently, it isn’t used much in Western kitchens, but Asians use this method to cook almost anything — fish, meat, sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, soups, noodles, cakes, breads… Perhaps the common usage of this healthy method is part of the answer to the Westerner’s constant dwelling on ‘why are Asians so skinny’, apart from ‘burning energy picking up food with chopsticks’ lol. I guarantee that you can expect more steamed recipes to pop up soon!

First up, here’s a simple recipe for the Chinese steamed bun a.k.a. baozi (if filled) / mantou (if unfilled), which I often grab from the school canteen in Singapore for 60cents (30 euro cents, 2.5kr). Steaming bread is faster than baking it, and produces a texture that is both soft and moist. With many sweet and savory fillings to choose from – char siew, cabbage, corn, red bean paste, yam, lotus paste, etc etc… it is one of those grab-and-go breakfasts / snacks that is both satisfying and comforting. πŸ™‚

Steamed Chinese Bun recipe adapted from standard baozi / mantou recipe

  • 400g plain / cake flour — I used 340g plain + 60g potato starch (usually corn starch)
  • 1-2 tsp yeast / half a yeast cake
  • 1 tsp baking powder (optional)
  • 50g sugar
  • 180ml warm water / milk
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1. Mix the yeast and warm water together.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together then rub in oil evenly (tenderizer by limiting gluten formation)
  3. Combine and knead into a soft dough.
  4. Cover with a damp cloth and leave aside to rise for 2h.
  5. Shape dough into a log of about 4cm in diameter. Cut into 2-3cm segments, flatten / roll into a round and wrap your desired filling (any finely chopped stir-fries or sweet pastes or anything you’d willingly eat with soft white bread – I had in mine cabbage and corn stir-fried with garlic, onions, chili, pepper and oyster sauce). Place on a square of baking paper to prevent it sticking to the plate.
  6. Steam for 8-10min and serve warm!
  7. If you’re lazy to make the filling, you can make mantou from the dough by rolling it out into a sheet, then rolling it up like a swiss roll, and cut to desired shape. Here’s a good pictorial instruction. Good to eat with anything with a gravy (e.g. Singaporean Chilli Crab!!) or your stir-fries (you can serve it on a side like the Europeans do with boiled potatoes!)

Note: Remember to leave enough space between the buns, it expands about 50% of its size after steaming!

Refrigerate the extras and just pop it into the microwave for 30s and… voila! Soft chewy buns!

Teochew-style Steamed (Freaky) Fish

In Chinese, Recipes on May 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

FINALLY, spring is here and the garfish has just started streaming into Danish waters. It’s time to hit the coast and scoop up some of these eel-like fishes that have a wonderfully textured meat similar to our beloved stingray (ohhh, would somebody pleeaseprettypleeeease bring me some grilled sambal stingray from Changi?). It’s such a pity that such a palatable fish hides some skeleton in the closet under its skin that often sends people’s faces scrunching up in fear and disgust when discovered. BLUE-GREEN BONES. Can you handle that?

The housemate U had told me about this unusual colouring of its bones and scales before I had seen it for real, but I must admit, I still shuddered when I first set my eyes upon it. Of course, now I think it’s darn funky cool (I’ve saved some bones, anyone wants to make art with it?). The colour is due to the presence of the pigment biliverdin, which is a product of heme metabolism (same pigment responsible for the blueness of our bruises). In mammals, biliverdin is reduced and converted by enzymes to be secreted in bile, but many marine animals are believed (not yet strongly established in research) to lack the necessary enzyme for the metabolism and hence accumulate these pigments in their bones, muscle, skin, scale, etc….

By the way, this was supposed to be the product of my first fishing trip but the meet-up with the fishermen of 2nd floor biological department failed as a result of double phone malfunctioning… but a big DANKE SCHΓ–N to the mighty kind fisherman T for offering me part of his catch and the good ol’ housemate U for delivering it right into my refrigerator shelf! πŸ˜€

As it was my first time eating this fish, I wanted to cook it in the best way possible that will allow the taste and textures of the fish to come through… and I couldn’t think of any better way than Teochew-style steamed fish, just the way mom does it. Preserve the taste, preserve the moistness, preserve the nutrients! Food for the soul. πŸ˜€

Teochew-style steamed fish recipe produced from eating mom’s cooking for 24 years.

  • One garfish / fish to serve two
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 onion
  • handful of preserved vegetables (substituted with shredded pickled cucumber)
  • 3cm of ginger (slice half, shred half)
  • 1-2 tsp soya sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • shallots
  • scallions (spring onions)

*dried chinese mushrooms not available, but would have been awesome

1. Fill the base of a steamer with water and heat to a boil. Or mom’s suggestion: fill the base of a large pot with 3 cm depth of water and place a small bowl in it, on which you can set your plate of food upon.
2. Wash the scale and wash fish and rub with salt and pepper.
3. Make deep slices in the fish meat and insert slices of ginger.
4. Arrange slices of onion at the base of a soup plate and lay the fish on top.
5. Top fish with pickled vegetables, sliced tomatoes, shredded ginger and sprinkle soya sauce over.
6. Steam for 8-12min (until fish turns white and flakes easily).
7. Heat up oils in small pan and fry some shallots. Pour sizzling oil over fish and top the dish with chopped spring onions.
8. Serve with rice or rice porridge! *spoon the sauce gathered at the bottom of the fish over your rice / porridge — MMMM!!