Thursday, December 09, 2004

 

New Home!

Dear friends, AromaCookery's new site is up! Please visit www.aromacookery.com ! I will still keep this site open, but you can also read all my Blogger posts on the new site. Sadly, I wasn't able to export the comments as Haloscan doesn't allow me this function. I hope to see you at my new website!

cheers!

Monday, December 06, 2004

 

Update

Dear friends, sorry for the lack of updates. I've been busy setting up a new domain. Yes, AromaCookery is going to move to a new home! It's taking a little longer than I expected due to some technical issues, but I hope you'll continue to check back here for news of Aromacookery's new address. It should be up within the next few days. Stay tuned! :)

cheers!

Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Crystal Jade Ginseng Chicken BBQ

Note: Lots of photos in this post (12 to be exact). My apologies to those using dialup; you may have to wait a while for the images to load. :)

Crystal Jade (CJ) is a well-known chain of Chinese restaurants in Singapore, so it may come as a surprise to some that CJ has opened a restaurant serving Korean cuisine. In fact, it is located on the same floor in the same building as CJ's flagship restaurant, Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant. At first, I was skeptical of the authenticity of the food. But two months ago, my Korean expatriate friends took me there for a meal and convinced me otherwise. This time, I took my fellow S'porean friends (Celine, Richard, and R) there for a taste of Korea.


A glance of the six ban chan (side dishes). Many S'poreans don't know that side dishes are complimentary and refillable in Korean restaurants. I just hope that kiasu S'poreans won't start the ugly habit of ordering just one main course and fill up on side dishes.

A close-up of the ban chan:


Spicy fried anchovies. Celine loved this so much she refilled this dish 3 times!


Pickled cucumber.


Chinese cabbage kimchi.


Celery with squid.


Spinach salad.


Soy bean sprout salad.


Pa Jeon (spring onion and seafood pancake). S$15.00. This was beautifully fried till golden and crispy. In the pancake were spring onion, squid, prawn, and red chilli. The pancake was pretty good. I especially liked the crispy edges. The small dish in the far right was the dipping sauce for the pancake.


Jap Chae (Korean-style noodles). S$14.00. Ahh, this is one of my favorite Korean dishes. These noodles are called dang myun, made from sweet potato. They resemble Chinese mung bean threads, or glass noodles, except that these are thicker and chewier. The jap chae here is really awesome! The flavors of the ingredients, noodles, and seasoning are perfectly balanced. It's as good as those made by my Korean friends. If you go to CJ Ginseng Chicken BBQ, you must order this!

One thing I didn't quite like here was the break-neck speed at which the dishes were served. The main courses came in less than 10 minutes after we placed our order, and they all came at once. That's a bad thing because the main courses don't taste good when cold, and it'd be nice if we could have some time to savor each dish and chat during the meal instead of rushing through our food.


Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap (rice topped with assorted vegetables, beef, and egg in a hot stone pot). S$16.00. Before I could take a photo, the waitress had already started to mix the rice and ingredients in the sizzling hot bowl. A hot chilli paste called go chu jang was also mixed with the rice.


Bi bim = mix, and bap = rice. There were some bits of crispy rice crusts. The stone pot was so hot that it browned the rice at the bottom of the pot. The bi bim bap was sweet, spicy, savory, moist, and sticky, all at once. Yummy!


Sam Gye Tang (ginseng chicken soup). S$25.00. This is the restaurant's signature dish; hey of course, it's named after the dish! Once again, I had no chance for a photo of the whole chicken because the waiter, after showing us the soup pot, immediately whisked it away to divide into four portions. Another must-have when you come here. The soup was so light, yet it was delicately sweet and flavorful. It was also surprisingly not oily. The chicken meat was extremely soft and fell apart easily; the glutinous rice that was stuffed in the chicken was also very soft. Besides ginseng, this soup is cooked with red dates, chestnuts, and garlic. Very nice indeed! It's so refreshing that I could easily have another bowl of it.

And it seems I'm not the only one who fell in love with sam gye tang. We were seated near the kitchen window, and I saw pots of sam gye tang being served up by the minute! It was full house that night, and the wait staff were on their feet all the time. In fact, we even had to wait 15 minutes for our table. Well, the food was indeed good, and very filling. The service was pretty decent, and the prices are about the same as the other authentic Korean restaurants in town. The bill for the four of us came up to about S$90, inclusive of taxes. It seems like Crystal Jade has got another winner in its books.

Crystal Jade Ginseng Chicken BBQ
391 Orchard Road
#04-20 Ngee Ann City


cheers!


P.S. Many thanks to Celine and Richard, for letting me take photos of the food first in spite of your growling tummies. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

 

Recipe: Sauteed Garlic Sprouts



Compared to other vegetables available in Singapore, it seems that garlic sprouts don't enjoy a very high profile here. It's only recently that I see them being sold more regularly in supermarkets and wet markets. Also known as garlic stems, they are imported from China. I did a Google, and here's some information from this link:

Chinese garlic stems, garlic flower stems, green garlic
suan tai (Chinese), shen sum (Korean)
(Allium sativum)

Chinese garlic has a symmetrical bulb in thin purple or silver skin, but has little flavour. Its stems should not be confused with the inedible fibrous tops of curled garlic often found at Farmer's Markets and specialty markets. These greens are about a foot long and not hollow like the green onions. They are solid and about the width of a pencil. If snapped or cut, the aroma is unmistakably garlic. In China, garlic flower stems are a side product of the garlic bulb of strains known to produce them. The bulbs are cultivated in the usual way, but the flower stems are cut in early summer when they are green and harvested very carefully so that the bulb will not be damaged and can be left to mature. The stems are usually twelve to eighteen inches in length and sold in bundles. They are too strong for most people to use raw; but, if quickly cooked, they are an excellent addition to dishes requiring a hint or two of garlic.


Those that I've spoken to either didn't know about the existence of this veggie, or didn't know how to prepare it. That's such a shame because garlic sprouts are highly aromatic, amazingly quick and simple to prepare, and wondrously sweet-tasting. Since they come from the garlic plant, you'll either love or hate their pungent, garlickly fragrance. When buying garlic sprouts, make sure that the stems and ends look green and fresh throughout. If too much of the stem is white, it'll taste tough and fibrous. Also, choose those with fat stems.

Of course, there are lots of ways you can cook garlic sprouts, but my favorite (and simplest) way is just to saute them till they are sweet and tender. This dish tastes good whether hot or cold. From this basic recipe, you can make variations by adding other ingredients.



Sauteed Garlic Sprouts

1 bunch of garlic sprouts (usually 200gms)
2 cloves of garlic
salt, sugar
oil
toasted sesame seeds (to garnish)

1. Snap off the woody ends of the garlic sprouts. Wash and cut them into 2-inch lengths.

2. Heat up a little oil, just enough to coat the pan. Saute the garlic cloves slightly to release their aroma.

3. Add the garlic sprouts, sprinkle a pinch of salt over them, and saute over moderately low heat. Stir them every 15 seconds or so to ensure that the garlic sprouts don't burn and are evenly cooked.



4. When the sprouts turn tender (after about 5 minutes), do a taste test. Add a pinch of sugar and more salt, according. Remove to a dish, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.

Variation: Season with some chilli powder or sliced chilli if you like it spicy. I also like the addition of chicken frank or fishcake slices.

cheers!


Thursday, November 25, 2004

 

Cantonese Wedding Cakes



When I got home (late, very late) on Monday evening, a box of traditional Chinese pastries and two cans of braised pork leg on the table caught my eye. I exclaimed, "Ah, who's getting married?" Turns out it was my sis-in-law's sister-in-law.


I opened up the box in eagerness. Wah......one of the cakes had already been attacked! Quick, whip out that digicam and take a photo before the other cakes are besieged too!

Below are close-up cross-section views of each of the four cakes, beginning clockwise from the half-cake.


Before I could taste this the next day, this half-cake was already gone with the wind. Sob! Look at the beautiful, golden crust. The filling is probably lotus paste with melon seeds. Anyone who has eaten this before, care to shed some light? I can only imagine how delicious this must have tasted.


The remaining three cakes had the same flaky, buttery pastry, but they had different fillings and were identified by the color of the pastry. This yellowish cake was filled with a savoury mung bean paste. Quite tasty and fragrant, a nice departure from the usual sweet fillings.


The white cake was filled with sweet red bean paste (dou sha) and melon seeds. The paste was smooth and creamy, and the level of sweetness was just right.


This is the prettiest-looking one, cos it's in my favorite color, pink! Filled with sweet lotus seed paste and melon seeds, the filling was also smooth and not too sweet.

What I liked about these cakes from Tai Chong Kok Confectionery is that they were truly fresh. The pastry was light, flaky, and had a melt-in-the-mouth quality, while the fillings were smooth without being overly greasy or heavy, and were not too sweet nor salty. The flavors of the fillings and pastry were brilliantly balanced. What a wonderful treat! Really appreciated this treat because nowadays, more people opt to give Western-style cakes (or even cake vouchers) rather than these traditional ones for weddings.

Here's a little background on traditional Chinese wedding cakes from a website called
"China Bridal".

Chinese wedding cakes are called "Happiness Cakes", also known as "Dragon & Phoenix Cakes". These are baked cake with dragon and phoenix imprint on the surface. Some styles have fillings made of lotus seed paste, red bean paste or green bean paste.

The wedding cakes are usually presented to the bride's family by the groom's family as part of the proposal gift. Bride's family will then present some of the cakes to worship their ancestors and send the rest of cakes to friends and relatives along with wedding invitations. Quantity of cakes to be sent depends on seniority of guest or relationship with the family. Nowadays, the wedding cakes are usually served to the guests at the wedding instead of the western style wedding cakes.


cheers!


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