Friday, January 30, 2015

CNY Ang Pow Giveaway of USD160 !!!

Who doesn't like ang pow, raise your hands? 

I am much too old to get ang pows, moreover I am married with kids, it's my turn to give ang pows to my kids and the kids of my relatives and friends during Chinese New Year. So far I have never done any giveaway ever since this humble blog of mine was setup in April 2010, one of the reasons being logistics, because I reside in Belgium, and just mailing a small parcel will cost me a bomb. :)

However this year, a group of like-minded bloggers from SG and MY have decided to organize a BIG CNY ANGPOW GIVEAWAY so that one of you readers can have a big fat CNY. A really fat one. 大肥年。Do you know what you can do with the prize money? You can buy a Rice Cooker, or a Bread Machine, or an Airfryer, or a Soya Milk Maker or even a small oven with the prize money, it is USD160, which is about SGD216 (today's rate of 1.35)!!!  Serious. How I wish I can be a participant too! :)

What do you have to do? Just go to my facebook page Everybody Eats Well in Flanders for more details, or visit the FB pages or blogs of the respective bloggers. The contest will officially start on 2 Feb 2015 and it is open to overseas participants, not just readers from Singapore and Malaysia.

This angpow giveway is brought to you by the following 16 bloggers. Pls visit my face book page Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and the FB or blogs of my fellow bloggers and give them a LIKE and SHARE the post if you like. Good things are meant to be shared. :)

Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe
Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids
Alvin from Chef and Sommelier
Ann from Anncoo Journal
Cheryl from Baking Tai Tai
Doreen from My Little Favourite DIY
Fion from XuanHom's Mom Kitchen Diary
Jasline from Foodie Baker

LY from LY's Kitchen Ventures
May from Mayck-Law
Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders
Regina from Mummymoo
Sharon from Delishar
Susanne and Phay Shing from Lovingcreatiobs4u
Veronica from Peng's Kitchen
Victoria from Victoria Bakes

Btw, I am getting ready for my 2 hour drive and 13 hour flight to Singapore on 31 Jan Saturday morning. My luggage is still not fully packed yet, there are so many things to bring. I am gonna bring along 1 kg of belgian chocolates, 1 kg of belgian/dutch cheese, 1 kg of homemade bak kwa, a box of homemade melt-in-the-mouth pineapple tartsa packet of homemade chicken floss, not forgetting myself and my 1 year old baby. :)

My humble belgian kitchen will be closed for 1 month until March, maybe I will blog from my mum's kitchen or the kitchen of my friends if time permits. I still have a couple of CNY goodies which I have baked and not yet shared on my blog. :)  

I sincerely hope one of you will be lucky enough to win the ang pow, and if you do, congratulations and hope you have a big fat chinese new year!!!

Congratulations to the winner Deb L for winning the USD 160 paypal cash, once again thank you everybody for participating in this draw.

Monday, January 26, 2015

MTR #5 - Almond Crisps

I am trying my best to clear the recipes I have tried in the past 2 weeks before I go on a long 1-month vacation in Singapore at the end of this week. First in the list is a nice and crispy almond crisp which I tried on 12 Jan, it was the very first CNY bake I tried this year, way before I started baking my bak kwa. I like this recipe because it uses very little sugar, flour and eggs and absolutely no butter, so my sense of guilt is somehow lesser :)

The recipe is adapted from Minty's Kitchen. I followed her recipe exactly, however instead of 25 pieces, I managed to make 40 pieces, maybe because my almond crisps were smaller and thinner, really paper thin. But they were really crispy and crunchy, very addictive! 

I am submitting this post to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Also linking this post to "Best Recipes for Everyone Jan & Feb Event: My Homemade Cookies" hosted by Fion of Xuanhom Mama & co-hosted by Victoria Bakes

Friday, January 23, 2015

How to Make Bak Kwa (Meat Jerky) At Home Without Oven

I know a lot of people do not have ovens in Singapore/Malaysia and are unable to bake chinese new year cookies or bak kwa (meat jerky) at home. This is also something that has been bugging me because I will be heading back to Singapore at the end of Jan, and I will be staying at my mum's place for the whole month of Feb, but my mum's kitchen has NO oven !!! Oh no, how am I gonna survive without an oven for a month? Which means to say I cannot bake my favourite CNY cookies or bak kwa in Singapore and I have to bake them here in my kitchen in Belgium and hand-carry them all the way 10,000km away to Singapore.  Anybody wants any air-flown bak kwa from Belgium? LOL.

This motivated me to do a little experiment on how to make bak kwa at home without an oven, using a rice cooker or wok. Yes, you hear me, a rice cooker or wok!

The colour of this photo has not been adjusted, so as to reflect the true colour and texture of my homemade bak kwa

Is that possible? Why not? Bak kwa has existed for generations in Singapore, I am sure in the old days, ovens were luxury items which could only be afforded by rich people, and the folks from my parents' generation have always relied on using charcoal stoves to grill their meat. I still have vivid memories of my late paternal grandma who used to bake her egg rolls over a charcoal stove in our kampong house.

I have actually baked my bak kwa 3 times all of which I have posted on my EEWIF facebook page; I used chicken meat for the first trial, and I set aside a piece of marinated minced chicken to be baked completely in a wok. For the 2nd and 3rd trials, I used mixed pork and beef and I set aside 2 pieces of marinated meat to be baked in my new philips multi cooker during my 3rd attempt.

Here are some pics of my experiment, pls excuse me for the poor lighting as it was really dark in my kitchen in winter.

I will briefly describe the steps taken for my rice cooker bak kwa experiment. Previously I have also done a chicken version in a wok.

1) First you need to buy some minced meat and marinate it well in advance, preferably overnight. You may wish to click on my previous recipe of Homemade Bak Kwa for the steps.

2) Prepare a piece of baking paper big enough to fit your rice cooker pot. Mine is a 10-cup Philips HD3037/39 multi-cooker so I used a square piece of greaseproof parchment paper or baking paper measuring 15 cm by 15 cm. 

3) Take 50g of minced meat and spread it as thinly as possible on the baking paper and place it in the rice cooker pot. If you are using a 6-cup rice cooker, you may wish to use a lesser amount such as 30g as the diameter of the pot is smaller. The meat has to be spread as thinly as possible otherwise you may end up with a piece of luncheon meat instead of bak kwa.

4) Press the "Rice" button for cooking white rice or the "Cake" button if your rice cooker has a cake function. This first step will serve to dry out the meat and make it stick as one piece. It took my multi-cooker 10 min for the meat to be cooked. My Philips multi-cooker has a cake function and a temperature control which I could set it to 150C. However you can perform this step as long as your rice cooker is a non-stick rice cooker with "Rice" or "Cake" function, the timing depends on how fast or how hot your rice cooker is. You should open the lid every now and then to monitor the progress. You may stop as soon as the meat is cooked and can be lifted off the baking paper as one piece. It will resemble a very thin piece of luncheon meat. The meat will not be charred easily at this stage since it is lined with baking paper.

5) Peel off the baking paper and drain off the excess liquid emitted. Lay the cooked meat back onto the rice cooker pot. You should only attempt this if you have a rice cooker with a non-stick pot. Press the "Rice" button again, or "Cake" button if any. Wait for the rice cooker to heat up, once it is heated up, leave the lid open and flip the meat frequently. It will get burnt very fast. If need be, switch off the rice cooker and grill it using the remaining heat. Note that I set the temp of my Philips multi-cooker to 180C for the grilling. However you can perform this step as long as your rice cooker is a non-stick rice cooker with "Rice" or "Cake" function.

This is the result of my first trial using my philips multi-cooker. I was too complacent. I just closed the lid of the multi-cooker and went about doing other things (I was also baking a batch in the oven). Oh gosh, it became chaotar (burnt) in no time, so fast that it really caught me by surprise since I tried to follow the same timing as in the oven.

1st trial (right) and 2nd trial (left). Oven-baked ones in the background.

After the 1st burnt piece of bak kwa, I got wiser and more experienced, and I reduced the timing for the 2nd piece and kept a close eye on it. For your info, my Philips multi-cooker allows me to set temp control for the cake function. I set 150C for the 1st bake, the purpose was to dry out the meat lined with baking paper. Then when the meat is cooked and can be lifted as one piece, peel off the baking paper and proceed to the 2nd bake, which I set the temp to 180C, to grill the meat just like in an oven or charcoal stove.

If I tell you one piece of bak kwa in the above picture was done completely in my Philips multi-cooker, will you be able to guess which one? :p

I hope you enjoy my mini tutorial on how to make bak kwa at home without oven. The same theory can be applied in a non-stick wok. Just line the meat with greaseproof baking paper and cook it in a wok over low-medium heat. Once it is cooked and can be removed as one piece, peel off the paper and put it back in the wok, turn the heat higher to medium heat, keep a close eye, and flip frequently. 

Doesn't it sound easy? Although this sounds very cumbersome as you can only do one piece at a time, but I hope those folks without an oven can give this a try and let me know how it turns out! Another tip is you can cook the meat using a rice cooker and grill it in a small toaster oven, which is what I plan to do at my parents' place in SG. :)

I am submitting this post to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Homemade Bak Kwa / BBQ Meat Jerky (自制肉干)

It's been 2 weeks since I last started the CNY goodies blog hop and since I last posted something. Actually I have kept myself busy all this while trying out different types of goodies, one of which is Bak Kwa.

Bak Kwa or BBQ meat jerky or Rou Gan 肉干 is something that Singaporean or Malaysian Chinese will never miss during Chinese New Year. It is immensely popular there and wikipedia describes it as a sweet-salty dried meat product similar to meat jerky, originating from the Fujian province in Southern China. That's not surprising, as that was where most Chinese immigrants from Singapore and Malaysia hailed from.

Being a 3rd generation Chinese immigrant, I grew up in Singapore munching Bak Kwa every Chinese New Year. CNY would never be the same without Bak Kwa (and pineapple tarts). Never have I ever thought of making Bak Kwa until I moved overseas few years ago. I remember making it once in the year 2010 when I first started this blog and it's been 4 years since I last made it. 

So here is my version of Bak Kwa. I first tried a chicken version, by using minced lean chicken meat. But the minced meat was so lean that it just didn't taste juicy enough. Partly because I wasn't quite confident of the grilling, it didn't really turn out the way I wanted. Not willing to give up so easily, I tried a few days later using some mixed minced pork and calf meat.

Here is how my 2nd batch of Bak Kwa looked like. I was so happy with the results that I called them "Bee Chin Pang Bak Kwa" (美真香肉干). My friend said that the real Bee Cheng Hiang 美珍香 may sue me for infringement of copyrights, LOL.

Some take-away points from this 2nd batch.
1) It is imperative to know your oven very well. Try grilling a small piece to test out the temperature, oven mode and timing. It's worthwhile to spend the extra time to test out a small piece than to let the whole batch of minced meat end up being charred, just because you follow the timing and temp blindly without adapting it to your oven. Note that it is not necessary to use the grill mode, you may use the normal fan mode too, the grilling temp can vary from 200C to 240C, depending on how hot your oven is.

2) Always choose minced meat with some fats. How to know if the meat is fatty? The more white specks there are in the minced meat, the more fatty it is.

3) Try not to use raw minced meat that has been frozen. Because after being thawed, it will exude more moisture than fresh minced meat. And don't wash your minced meat before baking, just marinate it without rinsing the meat. It is however Ok to freeze meat that has been cooked but not yet grilled.

4) Watch the oven very closely during grilling, do not go for long toilet breaks unless you enjoy eating charred meat.

5) You may remove the bak kwa as soon as it starts turning charred at the sides even though the meat may still not look dark enough. The meat will continue to cook a little after you remove it from the oven and the colour will turn darker.

6) If you use minced chicken, the colour will be lighter than minced pork or beef and the meat will be leaner, meaning less juicy. You can either add more colour by adding dark caramel soya sauce such as kecap manis (which is actually not salty) or adding hoisin sauce/oyster sauce/char siew sauce for colour and flavour. 

7) If you intend to use a greater or lesser amount of meat, do re-calculate the surface area you need to spread the meat over. The meat needs to be spread very thin, and it is 13 inch by 13 inch (or 33 cm by 33cm) for 450g of meat.  It is ok to use a tray or baking pan of another dimension, just make sure the surface area is sufficiently big and the meat is as thin as possible. If it is too thick, it will end up as luncheon meat/spam instead of bak kwa/meat jerky!

8) The purpose of using rice wine or dry sherry is to remove the porky smell. You may omit it for religious or allergy reasons. You may also use XO or brandy or whiskey for extra ummph factor.

9) The grilling can be done not just in an oven, it can be done in a non-stick wok on a stove too. In fact both the drying out and grilling can be done completely in a non-stick wok as shown HERE in my facebook, in fact I did it during my first batch. It can also be done in a rice cooker as shown HERE in my blog. 

10) After the 1st bake, pls remember to drain off excess liquid flowing from the meat and line with a fresh sheet of baking paper, otherwise it will be too wet and it will take much longer to grill to perfection.

11) If you find your bak kwa hard and rubbery, it could be that your oven temperature is too high or your meat is too lean. This happened to me when I first baked my chicken bak kwa, the meat was too lean and it was not tender and juicy. But when I changed it to minced pork + calf meat, the bak kwa was nice and tender due to sufficient fats.

12) Please allow for at least 24 hours for the full taste to develop, do not finish eating all the bak kwa right after grilling. They will taste better the next day and even after a few days! Many people have been advised to keep bak kwa in the fridge and reheat it in the microwave or oven just before eating. Actually this is not advisable as the bak kwa will tend to lose its juiciness and turn dry, according to an article by Dr Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost blog.

Ok, these are the take-away points I picked up after trying a few times. Don't be afraid to try and re-try until you get the hang of it. I don't enjoy smelling like a bak kwa after each attempt, but I do enjoy eating my homemade bak kwa and sharing some with my friends! :)

Recipe adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover, Bake for Happy Kids with thanks!

Ingredients for marinade
450 to 500g minced meat, preferably with 10% fats (I used mixture of minced pork+calf meat)
100g fine sugar
1/2 tbsp fish sauce - omitted
1 tbsp light soya sauce, Lee Kum Kee brand
1 tsp dark sticky soya sauce, ABC kecap manis
0.5 tbsp dry sherry or chinese rice wine (you can use brandy or XO too)
1 tbsp hoisin sauce (you can use oyster sauce or char siew sauce)
2 tbsp runny honey
1/8 tsp chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 tsp salt (or 3/4 tsp)
a dash of pepper

1) Using fresh minced meat, add all the ingredients in a big bowl and use a pair of chopsticks to stir in one direction (for 3 min) until the meat sticks together and resembles a gooey paste. Keep it covered in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. (The purpose of mixing is so that the meat will stick as one piece after the first step of drying out at 160C.)

2) Line a 13 inch by 13 inch baking tin or baking tray with greaseproof baking paper and spread the marinated minced meat thinly with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. Then cover with clingwrap and use a rolling pin to roll it thinly and uniformly. (You may wish to spread it with your finger but I find the rolling pin a better tool. Note that for my 2nd batch, I used only 300g so the pan I used was also relatively smaller.)

3) Preheat the oven to 160C. Remove the clingwrap and place it on the middle rack to bake for 15 min. The meat is ready when it is dry to the touch, it appears to be cooked and can be lifted as one complete piece. Remember to drain the excess liquid emitted from the meat, otherwise your bak kwa will be too wet and it will take a long time to grill. (After this step of cooking and drying out the meat, you may wrap the meat in greaseproof baking paper, keep them in ziploc bags and store them in freezer to grill in the future.)

4) Remove from oven and preheat the oven to 220C (fan mode). Slice the meat into (9) equal square pieces and arrange them back into a tray lined with a fresh piece of baking paper. (9 pieces for 450g and 6 pieces for 300g.)

5) When the desired temp is reached, place them on the middle rack of the oven. Grill at 220C fan-forced for 7 min. Flip them over and grill for another 5 min or until the meat turns slightly charred at the sides. (Note that the original recipe stated 240C grill mode (top heat only) for 10 + 7 min, but I am using 220C normal fan mode, not the grill + fan mode, and I did it for 7 + 5 min. The temp and timing varies based on your oven temperament, so pls try grilling a small piece first to be sure. )

6) Remove the grilled bak kwa onto a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely, before packing in between sheets of greaseproof baking paper and storing in airtight containers.

This photo is taken under the lights of my kitchen stove and with camera flash in my dimly lit kitchen.

I am submitting this post to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies - Jan/Feb 2015

Do you know which day is the first day of Chinese New Year 2015? For those who are not too sure, let me tell you, it's 19 Feb 2015, and that is just 1.5 months away! Oh gosh, that sounds pretty close, isn't it. Time is really ticking very fast.... :)

Have you already started on your CNY preparations? I am gonna start very soon. In fact this February, I will be back in Singapore for 1 whole month, which means I have to do all my baking in January, since my mum's kitchen is not equipped with an oven or a mixer. Hopefully I will be able to bring some homemade cookies to share with my family back in Singapore, provided my luggage is not overweight! 

Are you keen to join me in the preparation leading up to CNY? Just stay tuned to this page OR  bake/cook/prepare something for this month related to CNY (and Valentine's Day) and post it here on this page.  

Participation is very easy. Here are some of the rules and conditions for this blog-hop:

1) This blog hop shall last for 2 months from 1 Jan 2015 to 28 Feb 2015. Your post must be a current post within the specified date range. You may submit more than 1 entry.

2) Pls indicate that you are submitting your post to "My Treasured Recipes #5 - Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House. Pls remember to link back, otherwise the entry will not be accepted. 

3) Your recipe has to involve a baked or cooked dish related to the Chinese New Year. You can even do a non-baked, non-cooked dish too such as agar-agar, chocolates etc. As the month of Feb is also related to Valentine's Day, we also welcome any dishes related to Valentine's Day. Participation is very simple, just click on the "Add Your Link" button and submit through the InLinkz tool.

4) If you are adapting a recipe from a book or a blog, kindly quote the book or link back to the source.

Last but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the bloggers who have participated in MTR #4 - Ho Ho Ho It's Christmas (Dec 2014). I hope you can continue to lend your support to the CNY blog-hop. :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Time really flies, 2014 has slipped by before I even realised. Thank god that i have had a rather peaceful and uneventful year, the only big event happening was the birth of my youngest daughter in Feb 2015. 

She is already 10 months now, and a rather active and cheeky baby. Thank god she is healthy and eating well. :)

Here is a lookback at what (little) I have done in 2014. It is definitely not easy to juggle baking/cooking with looking after 2+1 kids. Going forward, I have a small wish, I hope to be able to spend more time in 2015 experimenting in my kitchen, but hopefully not at the expense of neglecting my kiddies. =)

Here is wishing everybody a happy new year, let's toast to good health, good luck and may all your wishes come true!

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