Steamed Cod with wild peppercorn

Taiwan has a lot of beautiful scenic places with poetic names. One place which I visited recently is Xiangtian (“Facing the Sky”) Lake in Nanzhuang, Maoli County. While we were waiting for the bus, we spied several small shacks next to the bus stop selling “Maqaw Eggs”.  What in the world are Maqaw eggs?  It turns out Maqaw  马 告 (pinyin “Ma Gao”) is a kind of wild peppercorn that is famous in Miaoli’s aboriginal cuisine. Its scientific name is Litsea Cubeba, a plant native to Taiwan, China and Indonesia. Its fruit produces a lemony essential oil which is used in soaps and its seeds are used in cooking. The stall was selling hard boiled Chinese tea eggs specially flavored with Maqaw so we naturally had to try them (they were delicious!) as well as Maqaw peppercorn seeds. The proprietor convinced me that they are very expensive in New York specialty stores but it’s a good price at Xiangtian Lake because they are locally grown. Not one to pass up a deal, I naturally had to buy a bottle of the fragrant wild peppercorn. It is supposed to be great for tea eggs as well as pork and fish dishes. So tonight I sprinkled some Maqaw peppercorn seeds on my cod fish and they certainly added a lovely citrony flavor to the dish.

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1 piece cod fish
1 tbsp black bean and garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp XO sauce
1 tbsp Maqaw peppercorn seeds

  1. Rinse the cod fish under running water.  Pat dry.
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    Maqaw

    Place it on a dish, add all the ingredients on top of the fish. Steam for 10 mins or until cooked.

  2. Sprinkle spring onions on top for garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice.

 

 

My Mother’s Radish Cake

Chinese New Year is just around the corner! In my family, the Radish Cake  (蘿蔔糕 or  “Luo Bak Go”  in Cantonese) is a vital part of our celebration. It is not only popular among Cantonese families during Chinese New Year, it is also one of the popular items in dim sum restaurants, served either steamed or pan fried throughout the year.

I learned to make this cake from my mother. It is probably more accurate to call it Radish Pudding but its Chinese name is translated as ‘cake’. There are several variations of this recipe. Every Cantonese family probably has its own favorite family recipe.  For example, my 2nd aunt in Hong Kong swears by her own version. Whichever recipe you use, it does require a lot of hard work – grating by hand of 3 or 4 large radishes and lots of chopping and stirring. So, I only make it once a year.  The radishes are most juicy and sweet during winter and the other ingredients are very simple. Once I get started on this task, I usually steam 2 or 3 pans of radish cake.  It keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks.  I prepare them in advance of Chinese New Year.  Just before serving, it is sliced into pieces of 1 cm thickness, then lightly pan-fried.  A quick and ready treat for guests or for my family’s breakfast.

So, here’s the recipe for homemade Radish Cake for those of you who miss waking up to the smell of your mom’s Luo Bak Go. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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3 or 4 white radish (also called daikon or turnip, about 2 kg)
500 g finely ground rice flour (look for “粘米粉” on the label for the correct type of rice flour)
4 Chinese sausages (chopped)
1/2 cup dried shrimp (soaked for half an hour)
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked overnight and chopped)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 small pot of boiling water (about 3-4 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Method:

1. Grate the radish and put aside.

2. Stir fry together the chopped Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms and baby shrimp and put aside.

3. Fry the radish over slow heat.  Add salt and sugar to taste. The radish will cook in its own juice.  (If your radish is not very juicy, you may add a little bit of water). Cook for about half an hour or until the radish is soft and moist.

4. Mix the flour into the radish slowly.  Add a bit of flour at a time, stirring to make sure it is well mixed in. Add a bit of boiling water each time the mixture gets too dry and difficult to stir. The mixture will be lumpy.

5. Stir into the mixture, the corn starch and 3/4 of the fried ingredients from step 2.

6.  Grease the bottom and sides of a shallow pan with vegetable oil.

7.  Pour the mixture into the pan.  Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and garnish the top with the remaining fried ingredients.

8.  Steam for about 1 hour or until a chopstick, stuck in the middle of the pan, comes out clean.

 

Steamed Eggs

Steamed Eggs is deceptively simple to make.  Yet, it is so difficult to achieve that smooth, velvety texture that cuts cleanly when you dig in with a spoon. Like a silken tofu yet taste like a savory, custardy mouthful – so comforting and delicious to go with rice!  It is sometimes called Steamed Water Eggs because traditionally it is made with water. Some people like to add minced pork or seafood to this dish.  But I like mine made with just eggs and chicken broth.

I actually spent years trying to make the perfect Steamed Eggs – no more of that pock-marked surface or rubbery texture ….. all to no avail – until one day, my my mother-in-law told me the secret which I will tell you in this post.

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4 eggs
chicken broth or water

1. For a lower cholesterol recipe, use one egg and 3 egg whites.
2. Beat the eggs and pour into a shallow dish.
3. Stir in enough chicken broth (or water) to cover 1 cm over the level of the egg mixture that is already in the dish.
4. Use a spoon to remove as much of the froth as possible.
5. Cover the dish with a pot lid or an over-turned flat plate. This is the key to the silky smooth texture.
6. Put the covered dish into the steamer and steam it on medium heat for about 8 minutes. If your stove is on too high, it might cook faster than 8 minutes so it is a good idea to check after 6 minutes. The steamed eggs are done when the color has changed to a light opaque yellow and the center doesn’t wiggle.  (One reason why I prefer to use a glass pot lid to cover the steamed eggs is so that I can see if the center is cooked or not.)
7. If you had used water instead of chicken broth, then flavor the dish by drizzling a dash of sesame oil and light soy sauce on top. Best eaten with rice.

Steam Fish with Tofu

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This is one of my favorite dishes – simply because it is so easy to prepare! And it takes only 8 minutes to cook. I like to use either a red garouper or green garouper or a sesame garouper. A pomfret works well too. I also like to steam it together with tofu – makes for a more substantial meal and tofu goes so well with the steam fish gravy!

In Hong Kong street markets, the garouper is often sold live (swimming in a fish tank). You pick the one you like by pointing at the fish, then the fishmonger will scoop it up, weigh it and gives you the price. If you are ok with the price, he will de-scale and gut the fish for you.

1 fish
1 piece soft tofu (optional) – cut into cubes
1 small piece of ginger – about 1/4 inch thickness – cut into narrow strips
1-2 stalks spring onion – sliced into 1 inch strips
light soy sauce or Lee Kum Kee brand flavored soy sauce for seafood
1-2 Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
1. Trim off part of the tail and all the fins.
2. Wash the fish under running water for a minute or two until there are no more water bubbles.
3. Place the fish on a plate, with sliced ginger strips on the top and arrange pieces of soft tofu around it.
4. Steam the fish and tofu for 8 minutes.
5. While the fish is in the steamer, heat up 1 or 2 Tbsp of cooking oil.
6. Check the fish after 8 minutes. It might take a bit longer if your fish is big. The fish is cooked when you poke a bit of its flesh and it is white and opaque. It is important not to overcook the fish.
7. Immediately turn off the stove. Sprinkle the spring onions on top of the fish, drizzle with soy sauce and sizzling hot cooking oil.