Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicken Karaage

Chicken Karaage is a better alternative if your kids love chicken nuggets. You can make it as low fat as possible by using skinless chicken breast and using less coating. The other bonus, you’ll be guaranteed you’re actually eating chicken and not some composite meat product.

It is also quick and easy to make which is another plus for busy parents. The most difficult part is cutting the chicken and grating the ginger. Other than those it is just a matter of combining the ingredients together and frying the marinated meat.

I think traditionally this is served with mayonnaise but we’ve opted for Tonkatsu sauce for that extra Japanese kick. It’s a fruity sweet sauce not very dissimilar to ketchup.

Chicken Karaage

2 pieces of chicken breast cut into nugget size
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons mirin or sherry
Walnut size ginger grated finely (it’s best to use a ginger grater if you’ve got one)
Oil for frying

Combine the chicken, soy sauce, mirin and grated ginger and marinate for half an hour.
Heat up the oil to about medium heat.
Coat the chicken pieces in cornflour and fry until golden brown.
Serve with rice and miso soup. It also works well served with salad.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Home Made Pizzas (with the kids)

I have failed so many times in the past in making edible pizza dough that we’d have pizza at home only if they are delivered by an acne-faced uni student or I pick them up myself on cheap Tuesday nights! But thanks once again to Ms Eufemia C Estrada’s Baking Made EC cookbook this situation has now changed for good. For the first time ever we’ve made our very own pizzas from scratch. I say we, as I did ask the kids to help out. We’d still have cheap Tuesday pizzas, of course, but we now have an alternative when we have more time.

All weekends are good but the last one we had was more suitable for indoor activities than anything else. It was the perfect occasion to get the kids involved in the kitchen. They were only too happy to help as they have been looking forward to this since I mentioned “make-our-own-pizzas” months and months ago.

I made the dough and blind baked 5 mini pizza sizes. It was then the kids’ task to finish off their own versions. I try to limit the choice of toppings. We almost always order only pepperoni pizza so a very good mild Hungarian salami was on top of the list. There was cheese of course, a good blend of tasty, mozzarella and a bit of parmesan. Then there were ham, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, onion and basil. They pretty much ignored everything else and concentrated on the cheese and the salami.

Chichay's Alien Pizza
Yaya's Pricess Pizza
Kiko's "No-Name" Pizza

The end result was pretty good. The kids ate theirs with gusto. Them taking part in the cooking made the pizzas a little bit tastier!

The recipe below is copied, verbatim, from Ms Estrada’s Baking Made EC cookbook.

Basic Pizza Crust

½ cup scalded milk or ¼ cup evaporated milk plus ¼ up warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup warm water
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ¾ cup all purpose flour, sifted

1. To scalded or warm milk, stir in the sugar, salt and olive oil. Cool to lukewarm.
2. Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Let stand to rise. Add lukewarm milk.
3. Stir in sifter flour. Turn out on lightly floured board or tabletop and knead until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl; turn over to coat dough in oil. Cover and let rise until double in bulk. It is double in bulk when indentation made with two fingers do not fill up again.
4. Punch down dough and divide into half. Shape each half into a ball and roll out into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.
5. Place on two lightly greased pizza pans or cookie sheets. Fold under ½-inch all around edges. 6. Bake immediately in hot oven (425F to 450F) for about 5 minutes or until dough is firm but not brown.

Finish off with your choice of toppings and put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hainan Chicken Rice ala Beancounter

It definitely wasn’t love at first sight but my heart definitely did melt after the first bite of Hainan Chicken Rice. In the beginning, I could not see the attraction people have for this dish. Nothing by the way it looks strikes me as spectacular. I mean it’s just poached chicken and rice… But my opinion did a big turn around after tasting this quite unimposing but magnificent dish!

I first had it back in my university days. It was heaven on a plate (1 plate and two bowls actually) for a student on a very limited budget. I remember tagging along with some friends to this hole in the wall restaurant called Tak Chee (don't know what it means but it must be along the lines of "double happyness" or something that's supposed to bring good luck) to have their famous $5 chicken rice.

I paid an homage to this same restaurant where "we first met" years after I've left Perth. But sadly though, on my most recent visit early last year it was shut ...permanently (probably to make way for new apartments).

Like anything really good I was a little bit intimidated by Hainan Chicken Rice. There’s at least three parts to it (the chicken, the rice and the soup) that made it seem daunting to try at home. It took years before I even attempted it. I had varying degrees of success in the beginning but I eventually got it right, to my taste that is. Well, my friend Patrick thinks it’s the best chicken in Brisbane so I must be doing something right! *LOL* another shameless self-promotion!

Hainan Chicken Rice


1 very fresh chicken (preferably free range)
6 slices fresh ginger 2 cloves garlic, slightly bruised
2 spring onions1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Some sea salt
Some ground white pepper

Poaching Stock

Chicken bones a kilo of chicken wings or legs
3 pieces of ginger
2 spring onions

Chicken Rice

3 cups jasmine rice
Some chicken fat taken from the whole chicken
2-3cm ginger finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped very finely or grated
3 ½ to 4 cups of poaching stock
1 pandan leaf

Chilli Sauce

10 fresh red chillies, seeds removed
1-2 cloves garlic
5cm fresh ginger
2 tsp poaching stock
Lime/Lemon juice to taste
Sea salt to taste

Ginger & Spring Onion Sauce

Walnut size finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic finely chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
Chopped spring onion
Oil (not Olive oil)

Chicken Soup

Poaching stock
Chopped spring onion or small amount of shredded lettuce

1. Firstly, make the stock to be used to poach the chicken. In a large enough pot (to fit the whole chicken) put some water and add some ginger and spring onion and the chicken bones/wings and bring to a boil. You can use already made chicken stock if you like but still add the ginger and the spring onion.
2. While waiting for the stock to boil prepare the chicken by rubbing it with salt and a bit of white pepper inside and out. Place the spring onion, slices of ginger and the garlic inside the chicken.
3. After letting your stock boil for a couple of minutes lower the heat to the lowest setting. Place the chicken in the stock breast side down. Let it poach (the water should be barely boiling) for about half an hour. Turn the heat off and cover and leave for another half an hour.
4. Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside. You should chop it just before serving. Dress it with some light soy sauce and sesame oil.
5. Next prepare the chicken rice. Wash the rice then drain well. Render the chicken fat in a little bit of oil in a pan.
6. Add the finely chopped ginger and garlic.
7. Add the rice and stir fry for about a minute or two.
8. Transfer the mixture to a rice cooker and add enough stock as recommended by your rice cooker brand. Place the pandan leaf in the rice cooker as well.
9. For the chilli sauce combine the chillies, garlic and ginger in a blender. Add the stock, lime/lemon juice and some sea salt and blend together.
10. For the ginger and spring onion sauce, heat up some oil in a pan in very high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onion and salt and fry for a minute. Take off the heat and set aside.
11. For the soup, adjust the taste of your poaching stock to your liking. Add some chopped spring onion/shredded lettuce before serving.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Longsilog @ Mooli, Mermaid Beach

It saddens me to know that Filipino restaurants have been less than successful in Queensland. I’m aware of at least four which have folded in recent years. I’m sure they’ve tried their hardest but the market was just not buying. Some more obscure cuisines (in my opinion) are faring much better. Why? I don’t know!

So it pleases me to no end when I find out about new Filipino restaurants that are doing well.

On our recent trip to the Gold Coast I became aware of two new restaurants. One is called Sampaguita and the other is Mooli, both located at Mermaid Beach.

The focus of this post though is Mooli. Mooli, according to Chef Owner Rodi Solatan, is another name for daikon or labanos. The reason being, Mooli is a joint Filipino-Japanese restaurant. The Gold Coast being a “tourist” area has got a sizeable Japanese population so it makes business sense to combine the two.

After a full day at the beach Mooli’s range of traditional Filipino breakfasts (available all day, I should add) were exactly what we were craving. We ordered Tapsilog (pan fried sirloin served with garlic rice and egg) and Longsilog (Solatan sausages served with garlic rice and egg). We also tried their Adobo (Pork Stew in Soy Sauce), siopao (steamed pork buns) and empanaditas (Solatan fried pasties). To top it all we also tried their JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken).

The tapa was a bit dry but the rest of the dishes we ordered were excellent. The Adobo is more Chinese style with the strong presence of star anise but it is very good nonetheless. High commendation goes to their Solatan loganissa and Siopao! The longanissa was so good I could eat a dozen and still want more. Their Siopao reminded me so much of how it tastes back home! Mooli is worth visiting even just for these two menu items!

We intended to eat at the restaurant’s premises but there was no space available for us as there was a party being held on the same night we visited. Mooli is actually on the small scale. It can probably fit only about 20 people at a time. It’s designed more as a take-away cafĂ© rather than a full on eatery.

I am extremely grateful though to Tita Liz and Chef Rodi for accommodating us despite the busyness of that evening. It’s clearly printed on their menu that “bookings are essential” and I can understand why...they serve excellent food!

Mooli is about an hours’ drive from where we live but we’ll surely be back very soon!

Rodi & Liz Solatan, proprietors
6-2529 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach 4218 QLD
07 5575 6974

Thanks also to Patrick & Pilar for their generosity that evening

Friday, May 1, 2009

Australia - The Food Icons - ANZAC Biscuits

As much as I’d like to think that a whole nation stops to celebrate my birthday, the 25th of April has a much deeper significance to the Australian people. It is the day when the country commemorates the ANZACs (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey in World War I. This day of remembrance (ANZAC Day) then evolved to include all those who've been involved in other wars and military operations Australia has engaged in since the Great War.

ANZAC biscuits (originally called ‘soldiers biscuits’) were supposed to have been sent to the troops by their loved ones as they kept well during the long and arduous naval journey. From that description alone you can probably infer how much a “tough cookie” the ANZAC biscuit is. It maintains its “crunch” in spite of. (By the way, you should never refer to it as a “cookie” as the term is American and not Australian. I didn’t know this till recently. Some are actually offended by this.)

ANZAC biscuit is quite “hard” as you can imagine. It had to withstand elements other biscuits are not normally exposed to. It’s mainly made of rolled oats, desiccated coconut and golden syrup.

I couldn’t say it’s one of my favourites. The biscuit is fine on its own but experts recommend you dunk it in a hot beverage to fully appreciate it. If you’ve read my past blogs you’ll know that I have an aversion to soggy bread/biscuit. So, no thanks.

I bought a packet of these biscuits solely to write about it. But don’t worry; they did not go to waste. My two school age kids have developed a taste for them and finished them with gusto!

Unlike Hot Cross Buns, ANZAC biscuits have no restrictions and are available all year round.

Below is a recipe from Australia’s multicultural TV station, SBS:

ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup of rolled oats1 cup of sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut1 cup flour
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 cup of butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut together. Melt syrup and butter together. Mix soda bicarbonate with boiling water and add to melted butter and syrup. Add to dry ingredients. Place 1 tablespoon of mixture on greased tray. Bake in a slow oven for 20 minutes.