Category Archives: Kuala Lumpur

hakka-style stuffed tofu two-ways

for as long as i’ve known G, he’s been going on and on about his mum and aunt’s wonderful stuffed vegetable and tofu recipe.  and when i stopped by to celebrate christmas with his family two years ago in kuala lumpur, come supper time, his mom and aunt produced a massive plate filled with stuffed okra, peppers, eggplants and tofu, as pictured above.  pretty amazing, no?  and yes, i begged for the recipe, but was told that it was strictly a family secret.  bummer!

that said, i’ve been toying with making stuffed tofu for the past 10 years or so, although it’s usually something i make only for a special occasion…like this past thanksgiving.

most stuffed tofu recipes that i’ve seen, fry the stuffed object directly.  that technique works well only if using pre-fried tofu (yes, they sell this sort of thing in supermarkets).  i prefer to use fresh tofu, which has a tendency to fall apart if fried directly, plus the high water content of the silken tofu really muddles up the frying oil.  so, to counteract all this, i steam my tofu first, and then when it’s cold, i fry it in oil.

now, this past thanksgiving, about 2 hours before my guests showed up, i finally admitted that my turkey day menu had been a bit too ambitious (i can hear hubs’ “i told you so” refrain in the background), and decided to skip the frying and just serve the tofu steamed. it actually worked out great in retrospect, because steaming enabled me to just plop the entire basket from the steamer directly onto the “buffet” table — no plating required (not that i would have undertaken any fancy plating to begin with) — plus, i was able to serve the dish hot when guests arrived.

a few days later, when i found the box filled with leftover steamed stuffed tofu, i decided to fry those babies up.  it was like serving an entirely new dish that no one would think was made from leftovers!

Hakka-Style Stuffed Tofu 2 Ways
(makes about 24 stuffed tofu cubes)

Firm Tofu 2-3 boxes (some places package 1 large tofu block per box, some do 3 smaller tofus per box, some do 2 pieces; i recommend buying a Japanese or Chinese brand.  I’ve had mixed success with Korean tofu makers.  I bought a box of soft tofu once, and it was in fact equivalent to a Japanese or Chinese firm tofu.)
Lotus Leaf or Napa Cabbage A few pieces to be used for lining the bamboo steam basket
Stuffing
Lean Ground Pork ½ pound
Shrimp ½ pound, raw, peeled and deveined
Dried Shitake Mushrooms ½ cup, soaked and softened
Chinese Leeks ½ cup, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Soy Sauce 1 tbsp
Shaoxing Wine 1 tbsp
Sesame Oil 1 tbsp
White Pepper 2 tsp
Cornstarch 2 tsp
Sauce for Steamed Tofu
Light Soy Sauce 1 cup
Cilantro ¼ cup minced
Thai chilis 2-3 stems, minced
Sauce for Fried Tofu
Chicken stock 1/3 cup
Shaoxing Wine 1/3 cup
Oyster Sauce 2 tbsp
Ginger 1 tsp minced
Shallots 1 tbsp minced
Cornstarch 1 tsp
  1. In the bowl of your food processor, drop in all ingredients.  Pulse a few times until just combined.  Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Cut tofu into roughly 1-inch cubes. Arrange in a bamboo steam basket lined with lotus leaf or napa cabbage.
  3. Use a melon baller to scoop out the center of the tofu.  (it’s just a quick twist using the melon baller. you’re leaving most of the tofu intact).
  4. Pick up a tablespoon or so of stuffing and roll it into a small ball. Place the ball into the center of the tofu you just scooped out.  Repeat until all tofu as been filled.
  5. Steam for at least 20 minutes, or until the stuffing is cooked.  (It’s hard to over-steam!)
  6. To make the sauce for the steamed tofu, just combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon.  Serve on the side in a small bowl.
  7. To fry the leftover tofu, heat about 2 cups of canola oil in a medium sized saucepan.  When the temperature reached 380ºF,  drop in one piece of tofu to test if the temperature is right.  Then, drop in a few more.  The temperature will dip each time you introduce a new piece of tofu, so only fry a few at a time.
  8. To make the sauce for the fried tofu,  heat about 1 tbsp of canola oil in a pan.  Drop in ginger and shallots and fry until golden brown.  While the shallots of browning, dissolve cornstarch into the chicken stock.   When the shallots have lightly browned, pour in shaoxing wine, followed by chicken stock/corn starch and oyster sauce.  Reduce until thickened to the consistency of gravy. Then, pour over fried tofu. [Note: in the picture above, I ran out of shallots and ginger, and substituted with black beans.  Personally, I prefer the shallots and ginger more].
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pilgrammage to fatty crab in petaling jaya (肥佬蟹海鲜楼)

g and i have been friends for over a decade now.  and, just about from the moment i met him, he’s been going on and on and on about fatty crab, a restaurant in his homeland of malaysia.  he dragged us over to zak pelaccio’s nyc rendition when it opened up a few years back — a decent effort but a far cry from the real thing after having tasted it.

over the holidays, hubby and i followed g home to malaysia and made a pilgrimage to fatty crab together. it’s a grubby sort of place — plastic chairs, flourescent lights, open air, the aroma of roadside durians wafting together with charcoal and spices of satay grilling under a make-shift chimney.  you order off of a simple menu written in bold letters plastered on the wall. most guests don’t even bother to look at the menu.  they’ve memorised it, and they know what they want.  we went there for the food, and that was all that really mattered.

g recruited his brothers to accompany us to fatty crab, so that we could order more.  he teased us with a few appetizers to hold us over while we waited for principle act.  the chicken and beef satay — grilled roadside by a woman who looked as if she had been doing so for ages — tasted moist, smoky and imbued with the aroma of coriander, tumeric and lemongrass. the chicken wings were piping hot, lightly fried but heavily seasoned, and scrumptiously delicious.    i found it hard to resist the urge to stuff myself on the appetizers . . . fortunately, a few moments later, the main dish appeared at our table.

the famous fatty crab arrived richly lacquered with a divine sauce — sweet, spicy, tangy.  i’ve been trying to re-produce it at home without much luck. if memory serves me correctly, it tasted like a cross between sauteed shallots, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet chili sauce, and bean paste with a soft halo of crab essence. g’s brothers tell me that the sauce is a closely guarded family secret and only family members are allowed back into the room where the sauce is prepared.    just about every table orders toast with which to sop up the amazing sauce.  you take the toast, and you just about dip it into the sauce like a spoon.  g also ordered a simple steamed version of the crab so that we could taste the sweetness of the crab flesh and all its succulent juices.  but really, everyone goes for famous fatty crab chili sauce.

we finished finally, a huge happy and slobby mess with sticky fingers, still picking out the specks of crab shell that had lodged itself in random places on our attire.  we didn’t mind.

Restoran Fatty Crab SDN BHD
No 2, Jln SS 24/13 , Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya (about a 40 minute subway ride from KLCC; 20 minutes by car)
(603) 7804 5758
Tuesday to Sunday, 17:30 – 23:30
Closed Mondays

asian bread rolls: cheddar prosciutto shallot or fish floss

jetlagged. on the flip side, i’m keeping a baker’s hours.  woke up at 2am last night which was just as well.  while in malaysia, i picked up  a cookbook, alex goh’s (呉景發) magic bread, and had started the bread making process earlier in the day.  by 2 am, i was ready to mix together the bread dough for its 2nd proofing stage (3 proofs total).  i picked up two tricks from the book so far — how to make asian bread with the sponge dough method and how to shape stuffed bread into a spiral pattern.

alex goh makes his sweet bread dough using the sponge and dough method.  (the preface of the book indicates that it derives from japanese bakers). essentially, the method requires one to mix together flour and boiling water at least 12 hours — this is called an overnight sponge dough.  the sponge dough is then added to the main bread dough.  the sponge dough component enables bread that is softer and moister and stays soft and moist for a longer period of time. the sponge dough also helps the resulting dough achieve a higher volume than without.

i was originally going to make only prosciutto and shallot rolls, but i ran out of prosciutto in the process.  i wrapped fish floss (commonly found in chinese supermarkets, fish floss is typically swordfish that has been seasoned and stir fried until it becomes dried out, light and fluffy) into the dough, which worked just as well as the prosciutto. i thought the breads came out quite tasty. hubby ate 4 rolls in one day, so i guess at least there’s one customer besides myself!

Alex Goh’s Basic Sweet Bread Dough
(makes about 16 rolls)

Overnight Sponge Dough
Bread Flour 100g
Boiling Water 70g
Main Dough
Bread Flour 300g
AP Flour 100g
Sugar 80g
Salt 6g
Milk Powder 20g
Instant Yeast 9g
Cold Water 175g (you may need 25 to 50g more.  alex is based in malaysia, a very humid climate)
Cold Eggs 60g (about 1 large egg)
Butter 60g

To make the sponge dough:

  1. mix together bread flour and boiling water until a dough forms.  Cover with plastic and set asie to cool.  When cooled, place in refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

To make the main dough:

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, mix together the flours, sugar, salt, milk powder, and yeast until well-blended.
  2. Add in the cold water and eggs.  Knead with the dough hook until a rough dough forms.
  3. Then add in the sponge dough followed by the butter.
  4. Knead the dough on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the dough becomes elastic.  When you pull it apart the dough will be springy and not too sticky.
  5. Let the dough proof until it has doubled in size and an indentation remains when pressed.  About 40 to 90 minutes.

Cheddar Prosciutto Shallot or Fish Floss Stuffed Bread Rolls

Minced Shallots 1 large shallot (for 16 rolls)
Prosciutto 300g (for 16 rolls)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese ~2-3 tbsp (for 16 rolls)
Fish Floss ~1-2 tbsp per a roll
  1. When the dough has doubled, divide it into 60g portions and then let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Take each piece of dough and roll it flat until it is an oblong shape about 6 to 7 inches long and 3 inches wide.
  3. Place a piece of prosciutto OR fish floss on the surface of the dough.
  4. Roll it up, then bend the tubular roll in half.
  5. Using a knife, make a cut in the middle of the bent roll about 3/4 of the way down the length of the bent roll.  The cut should be parallel to the longer edge of the bent roll. Do not cut through entirely.  The roll should still be in one piece with an incision in the middle.
  6. Then open up the roll along the two cut edges. Place the opened up roll on a piece of parchment papers. You should be able to see the ham or fish floss intermingled with layers of dough.
  7. Allow it to proof until doubled in size.   The fish floss buns are ready to be baked at this point (skip step 8).
  8. If using prosciutto only, you may egg wash the rolls after they have proofed (I skipped the egg wash).  After egg washing the prosciutto rolls, sprinkle on the minced shallots followed by the shredded cheese.
  9. Bake at 360ºF for 12-15 minutes.