Category Archives: Asian Cuisine

Nonya Bak Chang: Singapore-Style Dragon Boat Festival Dumplings & Babi Asam: Spicy Pork in Tamarind Sauce

It was honor to observe a cooking demo from Violet Oon, dubbed as Singapore Food Ambassador. She is one of Singapore’s leading food gurus and is known as much for her cooking as for her opinions on food. She is considered one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine with a particular emphasis on Peranakan Food. Violet is also a respected cookbook author and food researcher. Her appointment as consultant to the Singapore Food Festival 2009 is particularly meaningful to her as the theme is Peranakan, the culture she belongs to.

Click here to go directly to the Video link

Watch the 35 minute video as she demonstrates two recipes: Nonya Bak Chang and Babi Asam. She interspersed her cooking tips as she demonstrated the recipe. The recipe is a bit complicated to cook but you will learn some asian cooking tips just by watching the video. Now if you want to experiment, go ahead. The sweet potato dumplings taste so good.

Cooking Tips

1. Saute with a nice gentle sizzle not too loud sizzle . Chinese stir fry cooking involves high sizzle but not Peranakan.

2. Cook by smell.

3. Most peranakan dishes boil pork, slice it for that even look, then stir fry it

4. When boiling sweet potato, keep water for soup stock

5. Metal masher is better to use for mashing sweet potatoes

6. Don’t put less in a traditional dish. If rich foods are cooked in its right richness, you tend not to eat a lot.

7. This food should not be eaten every day. In the old days, it was eaten once a year.

8, Enjoy food three times a month. Rest of the month, eat plain like steamed fish or plain rice. When you cook for guests, the point is how to impress them. Cook really yummy for guests.

9. Coriander powder is important in Peranakan cooking. Never buy powder form. Toast the coriander in the over oon14for 10 to 15 minutes but stir every 5 minutes. It has to smell cooked but not burned.

10. To prevent spillage on the floor, use a mixing bowl three times the size that that you would need.

11. the smaller the pot the better. Deep fry is about how high the oil is.

12. When eating in a restaurant, feast with your eyes, your smell and lastly, the taste

13. Drain/dry the meat before cooking so that there is no water layer that prevents spices from reaching the meat.

Here are the recipes demonstrated by Violet Oon.

Held to commemorate a hero of ancient China, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in Singapore with thousands of pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings and a Dragon Boat Race. The poet Ch’u Yuan drowned himself in protest against injustice and corruption. It is said that rice dumplings were cast into the water to lure fishes away from the body of the martyr. This act is remembered by the eating of “chung”, glutinous rice dumplings.  Dried lotus and pandan leaves flood the markets a few days before the festival on the fifth month of the lunar calendar as the dumplings are wrapped up tightly in these leaves. The steamed glutinous rice encloses a variety of fillings from pork to mushrooms, red beans, chicken, and mung beans.  The Peranakan version isa delicious variation.  In the past, lotus leaves were not as a vailable so Peranakans used the gigantic fragrant pandan leaves to wrap their bak chang. In addition to the traditional ingredients of diced pork, Chinese mushrooms and preserved melon was added to the local recipe by the Baba Chinese.  The new recipe also includes pounded coriander seeds and lots of sugar.

Continue reading Nonya Bak Chang: Singapore-Style Dragon Boat Festival Dumplings & Babi Asam: Spicy Pork in Tamarind Sauce

Babi Pongteh (Braised Pork with Salted Bean Paste)

babi-pongtehI hope you will indulge me with a few recipes the next few days. These are Peranakan dishes shared to me by the Singaporean chef in the ongoing Singapore Food Festival. You can read more about my food adventures at Multi-Cultural Gastronomic Experience in Singapore and Opening Day at the Singapore Food Festival. Just to give you a background, Peranakan culture reflects Singapore’s Multi-cultural landscape. Peranakan is a cultural juxtaposition between the Chinese and Malay or Indian and Malay resulting in a colorful and multi-faceted culture from history to costumes and jewelry. Just like us, Filipinos, our food is multi-cultural as well , heavily influenced by the Spanish, Chinese, Malay, Indian, American and many more. This Babi Pongteh recipe reminds me of our local Humba . In Humba, we use salted black beans but in the Babi Pongteh, it is Salted Bean Paste. I got to taste the salted bean paste and it is not as salty as the salted black beans for Humba. Try buying the salted bean paste at your local Chinese grocery stores. Here is the recipe developed by Shirley Tay.

Serves 10

Pork Belly (cut into pieces approx. 5cm) 2kg
Shallots 500g
Garlic 300g
Salted Bean Paste 200g
Dark Soya Sauce for colour
Sugar 100g
Oil 150ml
Water 1½ litres
Chicken Cube 1 no.

1. Blend the shallots, garlic and salted bean paste together.
2. Heat up the oil in a pot.
3. When oil is hot, add in the blended mixture of shallots, garlic and salted bean paste and fry until fragrant and slightly golden brown.
5. Then, add in the pork belly and dark soya sauce and continue frying until the pork is evenly coated.
6. Add in enough water just to cover the pork belly and stir in seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour or until the pork is tender.
7. The dish is ready to serve hot with steamed rice.

Note: This is the original recipe of Shirley Tay, a Nyonya chef at the Swissotel Merchant Court.

Ayam Buah Keluak (Chicken Stewed with Black Nuts)

Ayam Buah Keluak (low res)
One of the most popular Peranakan dishes of Swissotel Merchant Court and even Singapore is the Ayam Buah Keluak or Chicken stewed in Black Nuts. This is the traditional and well-known Nonya dish, normally available in restaurants that feature Peranakan cuisine. Its main ingredients are chicken (ayam) and buah keluak. I know some of you might not be able to get the ingredients locally but for those based in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia you can try this recipe developed by Chef Shirley Tay of Swissotel Merchant Court. I also got to taste this dish and loved the combination of the black nut paste with the chicken. It’s not too salty too.

You can download Shirley Tay’s recipe here.

And if you are in Singapore, you might want to try out the 100 dishes at the Longest Peranakan buffet slated for July 26, 2009.
Continue reading Ayam Buah Keluak (Chicken Stewed with Black Nuts)