Good food should always be shared.
This is the philosophy behind the group of friends I've been so lucky to have been a part of, over the years. We came up with the name Stomachs Eleven, for this is the focus of all our gatherings - an emphasis on good food which we share with each, rotating from one kitchen to the next as we each take turns to host a dinner.
There is little doubt over whose house we look forward to going to most - Pig Flyin has a level of cooking prowess that is formidable given he is completely self-taught and has never worked in a kitchen or restaurant. Together with his "sous chefs" Mrs Pig Flyin and Silverlily, dinner is always generous and extraordinary, but what always impresses me most is the calm and humble manner in which he cooks and serves his dishes.
Inspired by the dishes cooked by his grandparents, Pig Flyin treated us to a Teochew feast. Teochew refers to the language dialect spoken by the Han people, who originated from Chaoshnan in Guangdong, China. Today you will find Teochew immigrants all over the world, including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, France, Australia and the United States.
Pig Flyin was so descriptive about his dishes, that I'm replicating his explanatory information here, as an informal guest post by the masterful cook himself.
1. Tea-smoked duck with tea smoked eggs 樟茶鴨 + 熏蛋
Pig Flyin: "I actually made this tea-smoked duck with crumbed lotus leaves as I had extra in the pantry. The duck is salted and spiced overnight, steamed until almost cooked and then smoked using tea -- or in my case, crumbed lotus leaves. Finally the duck is deep-fried until the skin is crisp and the flesh is warm.
"The name of the duck (樟茶鴨) implies smoking using camphor tree wood chip and tea, but in this case I've used a little artistic interpretation!"
Tea smoked duck with tea smoked eggs
Pig Flyin: "The eggs are soft boiled, ideally to a still-gooey yolk stage, then left to cold marinate in a master stock. I then smoked the eggs in the aftermath of the smoked duck wok."
This duck was incredible. The smell was enough to make your toes tingle in anticipation, and each bite rewarded you with crisp skin, tender flesh and an intense complex smokiness that lingered long after you'd finished chewing.
2. Poached Gelled Sea Mullet 凍魚, 潮州魚飯
Pig Flyin: "Poached gelled sea mullet uses an old method that was common in fishing and shipping areas of Teochew to preserve fish before cold storage became readily available. The unscaled fish is lightly salted which will help drain the fish of blood and remove some fishiness.
"The fish is steamed (in the past, it would have been poached in diluted sea water) and then breeze-dried (the ocean breeze on the fishing boat would have been used historically) until the skin dries and forms a sort of armor."
Peeling away the skin
Pig Flyin: "When ready to serve, the skin of the fish is peeled away to reveal the highly prized tint of golden oil on the flesh that only appears on mullet during autumn. This dish can be made with any type of fish that has scales, but sea mullet is revered as one of the two prized varieties for this dish.
"Autumn onwards is the season to enjoy mullet, and my grandma almost always served this dish to celebrate the winter solstice. In Hong Kong and China, sea mullet has virtually disappeared from plates, and only freshwater farmed mullet is available. The sea variety is far superior.
Poached gelled sea mullet
Pig Flyin: "We are so lucky in Sydney - I only paid three dollars for the mullet used in our dinner. Sea mullet roe is also highly prized by the Taiwanese and Japanese, salted and dried under the sun to create karasumi."
3. Gold and silver bok choy and pork bone soup with almond milk 金銀菜杏汁白肺湯
Pig Flyin: "This isn't really a Teochew dish, but I made this as I was sick, and it is good for coughs.
""Gold and silver" means "dried and fresh" in the names of many Chinese dishes. The traditional medicinal component of this soup should also include pig's lights, or lungs, but I couldn't find one that was ready to be cleaned the day before. Personally, I don't think the lungs make a difference medicinally, but I think the lungs are delicious to eat.
"This dish used to only be found in old style fine dining houses serving purist Cantonese cuisine, catering exclusively for the well-heeled and wealthy. It was rarely found in restaurants although it has made a small comeback in the last few years.
"Luk Yu Tea House in Hong Kong is one of the few places to find this soup, served during dinner. The tea house is famous for its yum cha, particularly for tourists, who revel in its Art Deco decor dating from the 1930s.
"This Cantonese soup is unlike Teochew soups, that tend to be boiled quickly, bold with flavour and served with rice. The Cantonese prefer to do things slowly. I boiled three kilograms of pork bones for ten hours, adding dried scallops and both dried and fresh bok choy. The almond milk is made by blending almonds, filtering it using a cheese cloth, and then adding it to the soup just before serving for added richness."
4. Teochew-style haggis 糯米灌猪肠
Pig Flyin: "Teochew-style haggis is typical street food commonly found in Thai, Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese communities outside of Teochew in southern China. It is quite similar to the Korean sundae blood sausage, albeit without the blood.
"What I love most about this snack is the sticky rice that is almost as chewy as mochi, interspersed with stealthily hidden chunks of bite-sized pork fat. The version I do includes rice, chestnuts, wind-dried Chinese pork (臘) and peanuts stuffed into cleaned and washed pork intestines. Chestnut is a favourite seasonal addition for my mum and grandma.
Teochew-style haggis with chilli sauce
Pig Flyin: "Normally this dish is served with a very sweet and syrupy soy sauce in Teochew -- not kecap manis, but sometime even sweeter and saltier. I couldn't find this in Sydney so I went with the Singaporean alternative of chilli sauce which I think goes rather well.
"Mrs Pig Flyin thinks that I should make this with more filling and less rice, but I like it this way."
5. Chicken steamed in lotus leaf parcel 荷葉蒸雞
Pig Flyin: "Chicken on the bone chopped into bite-sized pieces is one of the greatest displays of elegance in Cantonese cooking. I am nowhere near professional but I tried my best! I steamed this chicken in a lotus leaf parcel with black ear fungus, dried shiitake mushrooms and strands of jamon. It should use Chinese jamon but I couldn't find this. The dish is glazed with the thickened cooking juices just before serving."
6. Pork kidney and liver with shallots and ginger with habanero soya sauce 白灼腰膶
Pig Flyin: "This is a much loved dish for Mrs Pig Flyin and I that is typically served in congee and wonton shops in Hong Kong. The kidney and liver slices are cooked very quickly in boiling water - the tricky part is keeping the liver soft and tender."
7. Braised oxtail with air-dried duck 臘鴨燜牛尾
Pig Flyin: "Mrs Pig Flyin and I found the recipe for this dish in a Hong Kong newspaper and then again in a recently published cookbook. Braised oxtail with air-dried duck was apparently quite famous before disappearing from menu and being replaced by oxtail cooked in either tomato or red wine sauce. We love this dish and find it's the best way of using up all the bony bits of air-dried duck that has little meat but is still full of flavour."
8. Roadside tofu 路邊豆腐
Pig Flyin: "This is an old roadside snack from yesteryear that should combine soft tofu with a super crispy shell."
9. Braised bok choy with jamon strands 雲腿白菜苗
10. Chai poh crumbs with eggplant 冬菇菜脯拌茄子
Pig Flyin: "This dish used eggplants which are skinned and steamed - no salting is required. Chai poh crumbs are made by combining chopped preserved radish (chai poh) with dried shiitake, dried shrimp and shallots. Variations of this crumb tropping is used in a lot of Teochew dishes. It is quite similar to the topping found on chwee kueh steamed rice cakes that is often eaten for breakfast in Singapore."
11. Rose petal azuki bean coconut pudding 玫瑰椰汁紅豆糕
Pig Flyin: "We picked up some Damask rose flower buds in sugar during our travels a while ago, and found that these go really well with azuki or red beans. This type of pudding is very typical of southern Chinese dessert that you might commonly see at yum cha.
"The pudding can be flavoured with anything but Mrs Pig Flyin and I really like this combination of rose petal, azuki bean and coconut. No cooking is required for this dessert - the gelling agent is water chestnut starch which I am becoming increasingly intrigued by."
12. Mochi with peanut toppings 糖不甩
Pig Flyin: "The name of this dish means "sugar don't fall off" but essentially this is a kind of mochi. The two-step process to make the mochi dough is very similar to the way the Japanese make mochi. Instead of starting with steamed rice however, I started with glutinous rice flour. The topping is a mixture of crushed peanut brittle, sesame seeds and a touch of salt.
Pig Flyin: "This was my favourite snack to get from the Teochew snack alley while walking down to my grandfather's office after school. Secretly I would hope that he might take me for a special afternoon tea in the tea house next door to his office. Often, he would."
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
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11/23/2010 02:03:00 am