Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Hello Everyone! Tonight’s recipe is actually also a national fish dish in East Timor. As we’ve covered back in March when we travelled through East Timor on our Flavours of Southeast Asia journey, the country was invaded and colonised by Indonesia after they gained their independence from Portugal. Therefore a lot of their cuisine is also inspired by Indonesian culture.

I’ve actually never had Ikan Pepes before; I guess the closest I’ve had that’s similar to this dish is Ikan Bakar, which in English literally means ‘burn fish’. The main difference between the two is how the banana leaves are used.

Pepes is an Indonesian cooking method using banana leaves as a food wrapping and secured with a fastener made from the central ribs of a coconut leaf (known as lidi seumat). The banana leaf package containing the food is then steamed or grilled over charcoal. Bakar on the other hand is a charcoal-grilling method where sometimes a sheet of banana leaf placed between the food and grill to prevent it from sticking to the grill and breaking into pieces.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes is made by generously smothering the fish in a spice mixture. The mixture may vary among regions and places, but usually consists of a combination of shallots, garlic, chillies, coriander, tamarind paste, candlenuts, turmeric, galangal, and salt; all pounded together using a mortar and pestle, or blitzed in a food processor to create a paste. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves to not only protect the fish from excessive charring, but also to add a subtle touch of fragrance to the dish as a whole. The fish is then typically eaten with rice for a complete meal.

You can use any type of fish for this dish as you prefer, such as snapper, perch, bream, or tilapia, and you may also opt to use fish fillets rather than cooking with a whole fish especially for those who don’t like struggling with fish bones. Likewise, while the method of pepes is commonly used to prepare fish, other ingredients such as shrimp, squid, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or other vegetables are also available to be prepared using this method.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves) Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 25 MINS | SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 red snappers (about 500g each in weight), descaled, gutted, and cleaned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the spice mixture

  • 3 red chillies, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (white part only), finely chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp raw peanuts
  • 7 cherry tomatoes*, halved
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh banana leaves

To garnish

  • Lemon wedges
  • Red chillies, chopped
  • Spring onion (green parts), chopped

*Or use one small tomato and roughly chop. I used cherry tomatoes because I had some lying around that were getting soft.

METHOD

  1. Spice Mixture: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, onion, lemongrass, turmeric, and peanuts together until it forms into a rough paste. Add the tomatoes and continue to pound until they start to break down.
  2. Add in the shrimp paste, coconut sugar, tamarind paste, and season with salt. Use a spoon to mix them all together until well combined.

If using a food processor, add all the ingredients together and blend into a rough paste.

  1. Ikan Pepes: Place the prepared fish, that has been seasoned with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, on top of a piece of banana leaf, on top of a piece of aluminium foil.
  2. Stuff the cavity of the snapper fish with the green parts of the lemongrass and white part of the spring onion. This is optional as I didn’t want to put these parts to waste so I decided to use them in the dish as well.
  3. Generously cover both sides of the fish with the spice mixture and enclose it in the banana leaf, and aluminium foil.
  4. Place the fish over a grill and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes on one side, and 10 minutes on the other; a total of 25 minutes, or until cooked through depending on the size of your fish or method of cooking.
  5. Once done, remove from the grill and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with some spring onions, extra chillies, and lemon wedges on the side. Serve immediately while hot with rice. Enjoy!

1898

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Hello everyone! Oh where did the days go; how is it that we’re already into the fifth month of 2021? Well, as you all know, a new month means we’re packing up and saying goodbye (for now) to the Philippines to venture on to our next country on our Flavours of Southeast Asia journey.

Last year, I was looking forward to travelling to Indonesia, Bali to be exact, for the very first time. I had my itinerary all planned out, jam-packed with activities down to the last minute. I signed up for an authentic cooking class that included a market and Balinese rice terrace tour. All of that was unfortunately cancelled due to the global pandemic. Our family trip was supposed to be in early April of 2020, and by mid-March our country had already gone into a national enhanced community quarantine that is still being implemented to this present day. Yes, since the later part of 2020 did quarantine restrictions ease, but we’re nevertheless, still in quarantine.

Even if I haven’t had the chance to travel to Indonesia just yet, I’ve experienced authentic Indonesian cuisine almost on a weekly basis when I was living in Brunei. Every Saturday evening after attending anticipated mass, we (my Mom, my sister, and myself) would go to our favourite Indonesian restaurant and order our favourite dishes such as nasi goreng, ayam penyet, satay, and tahu telur to name a few. I even had Indonesian food regularly when I was living in Australia; one place in particular on Kensington street, near UNSW’s main campus, that I would line up for their delicious ayam or ikan bakar (grilled chicken/fish).

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Tonight, I will be sharing a classic favourite, nasi goreng. Nasi Goreng is considered the national dish of Indonesia, and literally translates to fried rice . It is a rice dish cooked with meat or seafood, and vegetables, however, there is no single defined recipe for it. Its composition and preparation varies greatly from household to household in all regions where the dish is native to. The key distinction though to nasi goreng is its smoky aroma, from the wok hay* as it’s fried, and the caramelised yet savoury undertones of flavour from the kecap manis**.

The version of nasi goreng that I will be sharing tonight is actually called Nasi Goreng Santri, which is vegetarian fried rice. While there are no specific vegetables that you can use to make up an authentic Indonesian vegetarian fried rice, I decided to make mine with tofu and bean sprouts. Feel free to bulk it up with your choice of vegetables to your liking. You can’t skip the fried sunny side up egg as nasi goreng is traditionally served with it to make it a complete meal.

You also cannot serve nasi goreng without a sambal of some sort on the side. I decided to make a simple sambal oelek which is a raw Indonesian chilli paste made of red chillies, vinegar, and salt. The word sambal is an Indonesian word referring to a sauce made primarily with chili peppers, while oelek refers to a mortar and pestle. Therefore, sambal oelek is Indonesian for a chilli sauce ground with a mortar and pestle.

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 25 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

For the nasi goreng

  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely minced
  • 1 stalk scallion (white part only), chopped
  • 3 pcs firm tofu, fried and cut into cubes
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cooked white rice, day old and cold
  • 2 tbsp kecap manis

If you can’t find kecap manis at your local grocers, or don’t have any readily available in your pantry, you can simply make your own! Just combine 1/4 cup ordinary soy sauce and 1/4 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce until it becomes maple syrup-like in consistency. As it cools, the mixture will thicken more.

For the sambal oelek

  • 10 pcs red bird’s eye chillies, stems removed
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp salt

To serve with

  • Bok choy, blanched
  • Crispy fried shallots/onions
  • Sambal oelek
  • Scallion (green parts), chopped
  • Sunny side up egg

METHOD

  1. Sambal Oelek: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the red chillies they start to break down. Make sure not to pound too much; leave the chillies a bit coarse, not a fine paste.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt, and using a spoon, mix together until the salt has dissolved. Transfer to a small serving bowl and set aside until ready to serve.
  3. Nasi Goreng: Add oil to a large pan over high heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic and red chillies to the pan and sauté until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and scallions, continuing to sauté for a further 30 seconds.
  4. Add the fried tofu and sauté for about a minute or two before adding the bean sprouts. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Cook for a further minute or two.
  5. Add the cooked rice and mix well, breaking up any remaining clumps of rice. Add the kecap manis and cook, stirring constantly to ensure that every single grain of rice is coated with the sweet soy sauce and start to caramelise. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the rice is done, plate up and top with garnishes of choice, I went with crispy fried shallots/onions, and green scallions. Serve with the sambal oelek, blanched bok choy, and sunny side up egg***. Enjoy!

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Notes:

  • *‘Wok hay’ is Cantonese phrase used to describe a particular essence and aroma that is created in a dish when authentic stir-frying is performed. ‘Hay’ means energy or breath; therefore, ‘wok hay’ means “the energy or breath of a wok”.
  • **Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. Compared to mildly salty regular soy sauce, the sweet soy sauce has a slightly thicker consistency, and tastes much sweeter.
  • ***Omit the egg if you want to make this dish vegan-friendly.

Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Hello Everyone! Last week was a busy week for Amcarmen’s Kitchen; I uploaded three posts, two of which were recipes and the other was an exclusive interview to celebrate my blog turning seven years old last April 16! If you want to have a read of that interview, I’ve linked it above. Just a fair warning, it’s quite a long article and also contains a 6-minute video where I talked about one of the recent dishes I’ve shared on my blog.

Anyway, tonight I will be sharing a classic Filipino dish that is close to every Filipino’s heart. It’s a dish I grew up with and is always a regular on my meal plans. Even when I was living in Australia for my university studies, this was my go-to winter warmer dinner after a long day on campus and braving the cold, crisp winds on my walk back home.

That dish is none other than Sinigang. It is a Filipino soup or stew that is characterised by its sour and savoury taste. It is most commonly associated with sampalok (tamarind) as its souring agent, but other fruits such as bayabas (guava), kamias (bilimbi), calamansi (Philippine lime), and unripe mango to name a few can also be used to make the broth sour and acidic; similar to but differentiated from paksiw (which uses vinegar).

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Other than the souring agent, the soup base is also made by stewing onions, tomatoes, ginger (if using seafood), and long green chillies to enhance the taste and add a little spicy kick to the soup base. Pork, beef, fish, and prawns are the main proteins used in the making of sinigang, accompanied by various vegetables such as, but not limited to, okra, taro, white radish, water spinach, yardlong beans, and eggplant.

Of course, I’m not just going to share another sinigang recipe as I already have two posts on my blog for it: Pork Spare Ribs Sinigang and Sinigang na Bangús. I’m putting a little twist to this sinigang dish by turning it into a risotto! Though this isn’t something particularly new, inventive, nor innovative on my side since the two words Sinigang and Risotto together already coexist – I just can’t remember where I had seen or heard the term before – I knew that this was a recipe that I wanted to try out for myself. I’m one to always drown my rice with the sinigang soup, and I’m sure most do the same too! So why not, instead of cooking the rice separately, cook it in the broth?

Just to make things a little different, I used risoni/orzo pasta instead of arborio rice. I tossed it in a pan with unsalted butter to toast before cooking it in the sinigang soup base to give it a nutty taste and a golden colour.

Prawn Sinigang Orzo Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 50-55 MINS | SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

For the prawn sinigang broth

  • 500g medium to large-sized prawns
  • 100g prawn heads* (optional)
  • 8 cups (approx. 2L) water
  • 2 packets (2 x 11g) sinigang sa sampalok original mix
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 long green chillies, halved
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, quartered
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger, peeled and sliced

For the orzo

  • 300g risoni or orzo pasta
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • Sinigang broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the toppings

  • 1 bunch water spinach, leaves separated from the stems, and stems cut into short lengths
  • 1 medium-sized daikon (white radish), peeled and sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, pan-fried
  • Long green chilli, sliced and pan-fried

*I always have prawn heads and peels lying around in my freezer from a previous batch of prawns that I bought. The reason is so that I can make soup bases like this or use them for flavouring other dishes. If you don’t have any prawn heads readily available, you may substitute with a prawn (or seafood) bouillon cube.

METHOD

  1. Prawn Sinigang Broth: Fill a large stockpot with the water along with the red onion, tomatoes, chillies, ginger, and prawn heads. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and leave to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. After 10-15 minutes, turn the heat down to medium-low and remove the prawn heads with about half a cup of the broth. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the prawn heads together with the broth to extract the flavours from them. Strain and then return the extraction to the stockpot.
  3. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and add the sinigang sa sampalok mix. Give it a good stir and then season the broth with fish sauce. Add according to your taste buds; I added about 3 tablespoons in total.
  4. Next, add the sliced daikon and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes. Then add in the prawns and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes. Once done, remove the prawns and daikon from the stockpot and set them aside.
  5. Add the water spinach stalks to the broth and cook until slightly tender, about a minute. Then add in the leaves and blanch for about 30 seconds. Remove from the broth and then set aside.
  6. Strain the sinigang broth and set aside as well.
  7. Prawn Sinigang Orzo: Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add in the uncooked orzo pasta and toast until slightly golden brown in colour, about 5 to 7 minutes in total.
  8. Once toasted, lower the heat down to medium and then add about 4 cups of the broth to the pan. Season with freshly ground pepper, to taste.

I didn’t add any more salt since I already seasoned the broth with fish sauce, but feel free to do so according to your taste.

  1. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, constantly checking and stirring to ensure that the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly and to prevent the orzo sticking to the bottom of the pan. Make sure to reserve at least a cup of the sinigang broth for later.
  2. Add more liquid if needed until the pasta is thoroughly al dente and the liquid is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes in total. Once done, remove from the heat.
  3. Reheat the prawns and vegetables in the reserved broth before plating up.
  4. Plate up accordingly and serve immediately while hot! Enjoy!

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

Prawn Sinigang Orzo

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Hello Everyone! The month is going by swiftly and we’re almost halfway through the fourth month of 2021! Before we dive right into the recipe, I just want to say that I have a special announcement which I have saved for the end of this post. Feel free to skip ahead if you want to know more about what’s happening on Amcarmen’s Kitchen this week!

Adobo is a very popular dish in the Philippines which involves marinating meat, seafood, or vegetables in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns, and then cooked in its own marinade. The most common choice of protein is chicken or pork, squid for seafood, and kang kong (water spinach) or yardlong beans for vegetables. I’m sure there are other choices of seafood and vegetables, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

To be very honest, before I even found out about the ‘marinating’ process involved in making adobo, I used to always just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer away for 20 minutes – well at least that’s how my Mom taught me how to make adobo; no marinating and no sautéing needed. Even without the marinating process, the way my Mom taught me how to cook adobo tastes just as good! I’ve tried a recipe where I marinated the protein before, and to be honest, I can’t spot the difference.

This is one of the main reasons why, when I used to live alone while I was studying for my degree in Australia, this would be my go-to weeknight dinner meal – quick and hassle free. The other best part of it is that the longer you keep it in the fridge, the more the flavours start to develop, and it doesn’t go off that easily! In fact, cooking with vinegar and salt helps keep food fresh for longer especially in the tropical climates of the Philippines.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo Ingredients

Since water spinach and yardlong beans are very common vegetables used when making a vegetarian/vegan adobo dish, I chose to work with my favourite ‘vegetable’ – mushrooms! I used vegetables in quotation marks because, although mushrooms are classified as vegetables, they are technically not plants, but are part of the kingdom called fungi. Stick around because I’m not just going to show you how to make Spicy Mushroom Adobo, I’m going to make it into a full meal for you guys!

If you want to check out my other adobo recipes on my blog, feel free to check them out! Disclaimer: these are all meat dishes from when I used to eat meat.

Spicy Mushroom Adobo Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 15-20 MINS | SERVES 3-4

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g assorted mushrooms*
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2-3 pcs dried bay leaves
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • Crispy garlic, to garnish
  • Fresh red chillies, to garnish

*I used an array of swiss brown, shimeji, enoki, and oyster mushrooms. Feel free to use whatever is readily available and most importantly, fresh.

METHOD

  1. Add oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic and red chillies to the pan and sauté until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the whole black peppercorns and dried bay leaves and continue to sauté to release their flavours.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms to the pan. Mix well and cook until the mushrooms have started to wilt and brown.
  3. Add the light and dark soy sauce, together with the white vinegar to the mushrooms. Do not mix. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Allow the mushrooms to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Give the mushrooms a good mix and adjust the taste to your liking, i.e. add more soy sauce if you want it a little saltier or more chillies for heat. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Once done, remove from the pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with crispy garlic and extra red chillies. Serve and enjoy with freshly steamed rice!

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Now you can stop here, or you can take this dish further by making Mushroom Adobo Fried Rice and serve it with a simple mango salsa and top it off with a sunny side up egg, which is definitely what I did! To make the mushroom fried rice, make sure you have cold, day old rice on hand.

  1. In the same pot that you used to cook your mushroom adobo, add about another 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Sauté about 3 cloves of finely minced garlic until golden brown and fragrant. Add your cold, day old rice to the pan, mix, and cook.
  2. Once the rice is heated through, season with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the mushroom adobo sauce to the rice and mix well.
  3. Transfer the rice to individual serving plates and top with a sunny side up egg, and to freshen the dish up a bit, with some fresh mango salsa (or salsa of choice). Serve and enjoy!

Spicy Mushroom Adobo

Before I end tonight’s post, I just want to say that I will be posting another recipe this week on Friday evening and on Saturday morning or evening (depending when I can get the post done). Stay tuned for a very special occasion for Amcarmen’s Kitchen!

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Hello Everyone! Yes, I am here again with another recipe for you guys this week! The dish that I will be sharing tonight is a build up on the Mushroom ‘Bagoong’ recipe that I shared yesterday, which I will further explain in tonight’s post.

The word kare actually means curry, so therefore kare-kare is a thick and creamy curry, or stew that is rich in peanut flavour, cooked with your protein of choice and various vegetables. The stew gets its rich flavour from my homemade vegetable broth, ground roasted peanuts and peanut butter, together with sautéed onions, and garlic. It is coloured with annatto and can be thickened with toasted or plain ground rice. It is said that kare-kare has a similar flavour to satay because of the peanuts in the sauce.

The main protein used in a traditional kare-kare is beef, oxtail being the preferred choice of cut and often paired with either beef tripe, beef hock, or beef meat. Various cuts of pork can also be used such as, but not limited to, pork belly, hocks, and/or trotters.

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Kare-kare can also be made exclusively from vegetables, known as Kare-kareng Gulay, that may include, but not limited to, eggplant, Chinese chard (pechay/bok choy), yardlong beans, banana heart/blossoms, okra, daikon, other other various greens. Now while this already is a vegetarian/vegan version of the traditional kare-kare, the condiment on the side, usually shrimp bagoong, strips it of its vegetarian or vegan title. While you can leave the bagoong to the side, kare-kare is just not the same without it. Hence, in yesterday’s post, I made a vegan alternative to bagoong to complete this dish.

I think the last meat-based kare-kare that I had before I stopped eating meat was crispy pork belly kare-kare, and to mimic that, I added crispy fried tofu to my kare-kareng gulay of fried eggplant, blanched yardlong beans and Chinese chard, and boiled banana heart. I first came across Crispy Tofu Kare-kare from various posts I had seen on Instagram last year. Since then I’ve been looking for a reason to make the dish for a blog post and finally I can do so as it fits with the theme for the month!

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

For the kare-kare

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (plus additional, if needed)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 tbsp creamy smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt, to taste

For the annatto mixture

  • 1 & 1/2 tsp annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • Banana heart, boiled
  • Chinese chard (pechay), blanched
  • Eggplant, fried
  • Firm tofu, fried
  • Yardlong beans, blanched
  • Mushroom ‘bagoong’
  • Roasted peanuts, crushed

METHOD

  1. Annatto Mixture: Combine the annatto seeds and hot water in a cup. Leave to soak for the seeds to release their colour.
  2. Kare-Kare: Add oil in a medium-sized stockpot over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the crushed peanuts. Continue to cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the peanut butter and mix well until melted before adding 1 cup on the vegetable broth. Mix and season with a pinch of salt, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
  4. Take about a third cup of extra vegetable broth and add the white rice flour to it. Mix until the flour is incorporated into the broth.
  5. Stir the rice flour mixture into the peanut butter stew. Leave to cook until the sauce thickens, a further 10 minutes and mix every 2 to 3 minutes to make sure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Strain the annatto seeds from the water and add the annatto liquid into the stew. Mix well to incorporate its colour, and if needed, add more vegetable broth to thin out the stew. You may also need to adjust the seasoning to your liking.

At this point, you may choose to add your prepared tofu and vegetables to the stew or separate them for plating up.

  1. Serve and enjoy with steamed rice and mushroom ‘bagoong’ to complete this vegan dish!

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

Crispy Tofu Kare-Kare

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Hello Everyone! We’re taking a little detour on our Flavours of Southeast Asia. My initial plan for the year is to go down the list of Southeast Asian countries alphabetically, but since April is a special month for Amcarmen’s Kitchen, I thought it would be fitting to travel through my home country, the Philippines.

Yes I am aware that it’s only Tuesday, those who have been following me for a long time now know that my regular posting schedule is every Wednesday night (GMT+8), but I decided that I would make a separate post for this recipe, leading up the the main recipe I have originally planned for tomorrow. The reason is because the recipe that I will be sharing tonight can be used as a base for many other Filipino dishes, or as a condiment to other savoury dishes.

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

I don’t think the word ‘bagoong’ even has a direct English translation to it. Rather, the term refers to a condiment local to the Philippines that is partially or completely made of either fermented fish (bagoong isda), krill, or shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) with salt.

The recipe that I will be sharing tonight uses neither fish nor shrimp, instead mushrooms for a vegan-friendly alternative. I first came across mushroom ‘bagoong’ when I was browsing around in an artisanal market about a year ago. I didn’t buy a jar of it though at that time only because I had no idea what I would make/do with it, but I did think that it was an interesting alternative to the bagoong we’re used to here in the Philippines. It wasn’t until I decided to make the dish that I will be sharing tomorrow night, that I also decided to attempt making mushroom ‘bagoong’ as an accompaniment to that dish.

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’ Ingredients

PREP TIME 5-10 MINS | COOKING TIME 15-20 MINS | MAKES 1 CUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 100g fresh oyster mushrooms, minced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup white miso paste
  • 2 & 1/2 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger

METHOD

  1. Add cooking oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté the garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Follow with the onions and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the grated ginger and chillies, total 1 and a half to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the minced mushrooms and continue to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes before adding the sugar and then miso paste into the mushroom mixture. Mix until well combined and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust according to your liking.

Add more sugar if you want it a little sweeter, or more chillies if you want a spicier kick. At this point, I added both dark and light soy sauce a tablespoon at a time for added umami flavours and for colour as well.

  1. Cook further, a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are completely cooked through. Turn the heat off and set aside to cool down before storing in a jar and keeping it tightly sealed.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use, and can be stored for up to 3 months!

Mushroom ‘Bagoong’

Use for dishes such as pinakbet for a completely vegan alternative to using shrimp bagoong, or as a condiment for other dishes. Enjoy!

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce)

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce)

Hello Everyone! Who here doesn’t love eggs? Eggs are probably one the the reasons why I don’t think I’d ever be able to go on a fully vegan diet. It’s amazing how many varieties of dishes we can make using the eggs as a side or main ingredient. So put your hands up if you love eggs!

To be perfectly honest, boiled eggs are my least favourite from all of the basic ways to cook eggs. Since I like a runny yolk, my absolute go-to would be sunny-side up eggs (with browned, crispy edge that gives a certain nutty flavour to the white) and/or poached eggs. I guess it’s now safe to say that the recipe that I will be sharing tonight has changed the way I see boiled eggs. Now, if you’re like me and this recipe doesn’t convert you, then I don’t know what will!

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce)

Here’s a great way to turn boring and plain-old boiled eggs into a spectacular appetizer or side dish at home. The East Timorese version of Balado is an adaptation of the original Indonesian Spicy Eggs, known as Telur Balado. Balado is a popular snack that you can find being sold, usually by children, all over the streets of East Timor. If you want a flavourful egg dish where the sauce penetrates all the way into the inside, then you really want to develop a fried and crispy skin to your eggs. Likewise, you can serve this dish with a fried egg or sunny-side up, but tradition calls for boiled eggs.

On the streets for just 25 cents, you get a fried, hard-boiled accompanied by a bold sour and spicy chilli sauce, called Ai Manas. Ai Manas is the heart of every East Timorese food. It’s very famous all over the country and comes with many regional varieties that vary according to taste. Green or red chillies often make up the bulk of the ingredients of the paste. The chilies are grounded along with lime or lemon rind and juice, ginger, onions, and several other local spices. Even a teaspoon of this sauce is enough to fire up any meal. Thai chillies are usually used for this sauce, which can be significantly hot for some. Use what you like and can tolerate.

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce) Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 10 MINS | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large free-range eggs

For the spicy chilli sauce

  • 8-10 pc red bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 tsp white granulated sugar (optional)
  • Handful of Thai basil, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • Small thumb-sized ginger, grated
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

METHOD

  1. Ai Manas: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies, garlic, and red onion into a rough paste.
  2. Follow with the grated ginger, lemon zest, and a pinch of the basil leaves. Continue to pound and season with a touch of salt. Add in the lemon juice and give it a good mix. Taste and adjust to your liking.

I had to add about a teaspoon or two of white granulated sugar to balance the spice and tang of the sauce. You don’t have to add it if you’re alright with the level of sour and spice.

  1. Once done, add the rest of the chopped basil leaves to the sauce, mix, and then set aside.

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce)

  1. Balado: To boil the eggs, heat a medium-sized pot of water (enough to cover all the eggs) over high heat until boiling. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and carefully place the eggs in the pot using a ladle to prevent them from cracking.
  2. Depending on your preference, boil for 5 minutes for soft-boiled eggs, 7 minutes for medium eggs, or 10 minutes for hard-boiled eggs. Take note that you’ll be cooking the eggs again, so I would recommend you go for soft or medium eggs if you don’t like over-cooked boiled eggs as a result.
  3. While the eggs are cooking, prepare an ice bath* by combining ice and tap water in a large bowl. Once the eggs are cooked, immediately transfer them to the ice bath to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Peel the eggs and make sure to pat them dry if you don’t want them to explode while frying.
  5. Heat oil, enough to submerge an egg for deep frying, in a medium-sized pot over medium high. Carefully lower the eggs into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
  7. Serve the fried boiled egg with the spicy chilli sauce and enjoy while hot!

Balado with Ai Manas (Fried Boiled Egg with Chilli Sauce)

*The ice bath will cool the eggs quickly and stop the cooking process. The ice water will also cause the egg to contract and pull away from the shell, which will make it easier to peel.

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Hello Everyone! February is flying by so fast and I can’t believe that we’re already on our second last Cambodian recipe for the month! Tonight I will be sharing a Cambodian breakfast staple known as Num Banh Chok, or in English, Fish Noodle Soup. It’s a traditional breakfast dish that consists of rice noodles served with a fish gravy and freshly foraged wild grown Cambodian vegetables (some of which does not have an English name), and eaten with a few chilli peppers on the side.

In rural Cambodia, the rice vermicelli noodles used in this dish are all done and made by hand with a stone mill. They are then sold at the local markets where vendors would come early in the morning to purchase it, and then sold to the local residents. Rice is first boiled until soft and then grounded into a wet dough with a heavy stone mill. Once all the rice is ground, the wet dough is placed into a large cloth bag. Heavy mill parts are placed on top to squeeze out excess water. This is the beginning of the fermentation process. Once done, the result is a firm, dry but still sticky flour. To see just how labour intensive the noodle making process is, read this article here. Of course, ain’t nobody got time for that, so I just used store-bought rice vermicelli noodles from my local grocer.

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Like many other Cambodian food recipes, Num Banh Chok’s main ingredient, besides mudfish, is the yellow kroeung paste. I covered this in my blog two weeks ago when I made Amok Trei (Steamed Fish Curry). Instead of mudfish though, again I used tilapia fish because that is what I am familiar with. The other main ingredient that is definitely not optional and irreplaceable – rhizome or finger-roots in English, khchiey in Cambodia. Unlike ginger, turmeric, and galangal which are commonly used throughout the world, khchiey is relatively obscure and is mostly used for medical purposes in some Asian countries. When fresh, khchiey has an earthy, peppery, and much milder flavour than ginger and galangal. However, since I could not source any here in the Philippines, I used ginger instead for this my ‘not so authentic’ version of Num Banh Chok.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on A Wandering Foodie.

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup) Ingredients

PREP TIME 25 MINS | COOKING TIME 45 MINS | SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

For the soup base

  • 4L water
  • Heads and bones from the reserved tilapia fish filets
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-3 large dried bay leaves
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 small thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white ends crushed
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

For the kroeung paste mixture

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup kroeung paste
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, roasted
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 small turmeric, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 6 tilapia filets, or any other firm white fish
  • 1 pack rice vermicelli noodles
  • Assortment of greens (I used mustard leaves, water spinach, and mint leaves)
  • Banana blossoms

METHOD

  1. Soup Base: In a large stockpot, bring the 4 litres of water to a boil, over high heat, together with all the other ingredients for the soup base, except for the shrimp paste. Once the stock comes to a rapid boil, turn the heat down to bring it to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. Kroeung Mixture: Meanwhile, prepare the kroeung mixture. In a mortar and pestle, pound the kroeung paste together with the roasted peanuts, birds eye chillies, ginger, turmeric, and garlic. If you have a small-sized mortar, you can pound the mixture in batches and then combine them into a bowl.
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and coconut milk into the bowl with the kroeung paste mixture, and mix thoroughly. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes to let all the flavour infuse together.
  4. Rice Vermicelli Noodles: Bring water to a boil in a separate pot. Add in the pack of rice vermicelli noodles and let it cook for about 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the noodles are cooking, prepare a large bowl filled with ice-cold water.
  6. Once the noodles are cooked and the texture is to your liking, strain and place the cooked noodles into the cold bowl of water to stop its cooking process. Start taking out equal handfuls of noodle and portion them into individual serving bowls and set aside.
  7. Num Bahn Chok: Once the soup base is done, strain and return the broth to the stockpot. Add the shrimp paste to the broth and let it come back to a boil over medium-high heat. It is important to add the paste first before any other flavouring ingredients in order to lessen its strong scent. Adjust the broth to taste with salt and sugar to your liking, if needed.
  8. Once boiled, turn the heat down and add the fish filets into the broth and cook for about 10 minutes. Once cooked through, remove from the broth and set aside.
  9. Cook the vegetables (mustard greens, water spinach, and banana blossoms) in the broth for a few minutes, then remove and set aside.
  10. Turn the heat back up and add the kroeung mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes.
  11. Carefully ladle the hot soup into the prepared bowls with noodles. Top with the cooked fish filets, vegetables, mint leaves, and more sliced chillies if you wish.
  12. Serve immediately while hot and enjoy!

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Hello Everyone! Forget about brownie sundaes, forget about éclairs and chocolate cake; the real desserts, the sinfully sweet and decadent treats, can be found in one region: Southeast Asia. Ingredients in Southeast Asian treats are less traditional than the sweet flavours you typically see in Western desserts. Ingredients like cassava, mung beans, and lotus seeds paired with sticky sweet syrups like coconut cream, palm syrup, and condensed milk are common and no strangers to Cambodian treats. Beyond these ingredients you can also always expect to have at least one fresh fruit added to the mix. Look for favourites like mangoes, rambutan, durian and of course, bananas.

Just as Southeast Asian desserts, Cambodian treats are most frequently enjoyed mid-morning. Instead of being served to cap off a delicious meal, the treats are bought and enjoyed in markets as you are doing your shopping around town. Many of the most popular Khmer treats are sold from mobile street stands. Look out for the crowds of students outside universities and schools, flocked around a stand.

Traditional Cambodian treats, also known as Khmer sweets, also come in the form of custards and puddings; egg-based dishes that are spiced up with a variety of flavours (vanilla and cinnamon are typical favourites). Since rice remains a main staple in current day cuisine, being eaten as often as three times a day, rice-based cakes are also very popular.

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Tonight, I will be sharing a Cambodian favoured treat that is simple and super easy to make at home. The best part? You’ll most likely have everything readily available to whip this up in your pantry. Num Treap, or in English, Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds, is a treat that is basically as the name states, steamed sticky rice mixed in a warm coconut sauce. The mixture is then spread into a baking dish or pan, topped with sesame seeds, and then set aside to cool before cutting into squares and then served. You may serve it as it is, or with fruits on the side. Num in Cambodian means pastry, so it is essentially a sticky rice (bai damnaeb) pastry treat.

This dessert is very much similar to a sweet rice cake that we have here in the Philippines known as Biko. It is also made of coconut milk, brown sugar, and glutinous rice, that is topped with latik (coconut curds) instead of sesame seeds.

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds) Ingredients

PREP TIME 60 MINS* | COOKING TIME 45-60 MINS | MAKES 9 SLICES

*Allow for an additional 6 hours (or more) to soak the glutinous rice before cooking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sweet glutinous rice, soaked for at least 6 hours or overnight
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD

  1. Rice: Drain the water (no need to shake off the excess water), and evenly arrange the soaked sticky rice in a steamer lined with a greased banana leaf.
  2. Cover and steam for 30-45 minutes. You can check the rice and increase the steaming time if need be. Once done, keep the rice in the steamer or covered to prevent it from drying out until you need to use it.
  3. Coconut Sauce: While the rice is cooking, add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Num Treap: Fluff the cooked rice with a fork to separate the grains. With the heat off, add the rice to the saucepan with the coconut sauce and mix well.
  5. Spread the rice mixture into a shallow dish or baking pan, pressing them down with a spatula. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to set and cool for about an hour.
  6. Cut into squares, then serve and enjoy!

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa (Glutinous Rice Cake with Coconut Filling)

Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa (Glutinous Rice Cake with Coconut Filling)

Hello Everyone! Tonight I will be sharing my last recipe from Brunei. As previously mentioned in a post I shared two weeks ago, I came across this Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa from the same website entitled ‘Brunei’s Traditional Sweet Treats You Must Try’.

To be honest, when I was still living in Brunei, this was a kuih that I barely saw sold in the night markets or road-side stalls – or maybe I was too focused on my favourite kuih-kuih that I failed to notice them amongst the pack. Nevertheless, as with most, if not all, kuih-kuih found in Brunei originate from a different country, and the Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa is no stranger to that. As it turns out, it is actually native to Indonesia.

Pronounced koh-chee, this is a snack/dessert made with a mix of white and black glutinous rice flour, stuffed with sweetened coconut and palm sugar filling, wrapped in banana leaves, and then steamed. The deep purple hue of the kuih comes from the black glutinous rice flour. There are also varieties of this kuih that do not require black glutinous rice flour, in fact a majority of it is made with white glutinous rice flour. The black glutinous rice flour is mainly used to colour the kuih.

Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa (Glutinous Rice Cake with Coconut Filling)

In fact, black glutinous rice flour may be quite difficult to source (depending on where you live). You can actually make your own too by grinding black glutinous rice grains. Place them in a coffee grinder or blender and then grind until really fine. Sieve the flour and then grind again. You need to grind several times until you get a really fine flour, so technically it’s a lot of work too. I managed to source mine online from Indonesia.

The Kuih Koci has a mochi-like texture and is sweet in flavour from the coconut filling inside. Though optional, a slightly salty coconut sauce cuts through the sweetness nicely. Other than just adding a dollop of it atop after the kuih has been steamed, you can also spoon the coconut sauce into the banana leaf, place the dough in, and then steam it with the coconut sauce.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on What To Cook Today by Marvellina.

Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa (Glutinous Rice Cake with Coconut Filling) Ingredients

PREP TIME 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | MAKES 6 PCS

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

  • 1 & 1/2 cups white glutinous rice flour
  • 1/3 cup black glutinous rice flour
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk

For the coconut filling

  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar*
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar**
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*Gula Melaka (palm sugar) is the choice of sweetener used when it comes to traditional kuih like this, but if you can’t seem to source it, you can always substitute it for coconut sugar like I did.

**Also, I ran out of coconut sugar. It’s supposed to be 1 cup of coconut sugar but I only had half a cup left and therefore mixed it together with a quarter cup of white granulated sugar.

For the coconut sauce (optional)

  • 2/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt, to taste

Wrapping

  • 6 pcs banana leaves (15cm x 20cm)
  • Coconut oil, for brushing

METHOD

  1. Prepare the Banana Leaves: Soak the banana leaves in warm water for 30 minutes. Wipe them dry and brush with coconut oil. Set aside.
  2. Coconut Filling: Meanwhile, add the coconut cream and sugars in a pan over medium heat. Mix until the sugars have melted, then stir in the grated coconut and salt. Mix until well incorporated and then sprinkle the cornstarch over the coconut-sugar mixture. Stir and cook until the mixture thickens. Once done, set aside and let it cool down completely.
  3. Coconut Sauce: Add the coconut cream and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan. Whisk in the all-purpose flour until smooth. Place on the stove and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens. Set aside.
  4. Dough: Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan until it is hot, but not boiling. Add both flours to a large mixing bowl, together with the hot coconut milk. Stir to mix everything, until the dough comes together. It should be pliable and not sticky.
  5. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hands and place the cool coconut filling in the middle. Wrap around it and roll the dough into a smooth ball. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  6. Wrapping: Take a piece of banana leaf and shape into a cone. Place a dough ball in the cone and gently push it into the leaf. Fold one side over, and then the adjacent side. Then fold the other two sides to make your cone-shaped Kuih Koci.

You may also choose to wrap them into a parcel, or steam them with no wrapping at all! Just place the balls onto a small sheet of banana leaf.

  1. Steaming: Place the wrapped Kuih Koci into a steamer and steam for about 10 -15 minutes.
  2. Serve: Once done, unwrap and serve immediately while hot, topped with the coconut sauce. Enjoy as a light mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack!

Kuih Koci Gula Kelapa (Glutinous Rice Cake with Coconut Filling)

Note: Steamed Kuih Koci can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Otherwise, you may freeze the uncooked kuih koci for later consumption. Steam, frozen for, 15-18 minutes.

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com