Friday, December 31, 2010

Homemade Chinese Barbeque Pork (Char Siu)

One of my specialites developed over the last few years is chinese barbeque pork or char siu. I guess practice makes perfect and this dish remains a favourite with my family and friends. The only problem with this recipe is that I don't measure my ingredients. I just add a dash of this and a dash of that. Also, I tend to improvise my ingredients depending on what I have available in my pantry so my advice if you're trying this recipe is to be adventurous :-)

Here is my recipe, to the best of my estimation...

Serves 4-8 (depending on whether you're serving other dishes)
1. 8 strips of pork belly (you do need a fatty cut in order for this dish to be successful. A fatless cut would result in a rather dry and chewy char siu)
2. 1 jar (240 gm) of Lee Kum Kee Char Siu sauce
3. 1/2 jar (120 gm) of Lee Kum Kee Hoisin sauce

4. 1/4 cup of honey
5. 1 tablespoon of five spice powder
6. 2 tablespoons of lemon/lime juice
7. 2 tablespoon of Lea & Perrins Worchestershire Sauce
8. 1-2 teaspoons of thick soya sauce
9. 1 tablespoon of Chinese wine
10. 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
11. 1-2 tablespoon of Maltose sugar (Mak Ngah Tong)

Marinade:Mix ingredients 2-10 in a deep glass dish. Place each strip of pork belly into the marinade and make sure that each pork belly is coated with the marinade. Using a fork, pierce the meat to allow it to absorb the marinade into the meat. Ideally, the marinade should totally cover the meat. Marinade overnight in the fridge.

Pre-Roast:45 minutes before roasting, take out the pork belly from the fridge. Preheat oven to 180C. Wrap your roasting rack and tray with aluminium foil (it will make cleaning up much easier). Slit some holes on the rack to allow the liquid to drip down to the tray. Place the pork belly on the rack and pour half of the marinade over the meat.

Now for the key ingredient - maltose sugar. Pour some boiling water onto a large bowl. Place the maltose sugar jar into the bowl. This will warm up the thick maltose sugar into a more liquid syrup, making it easier to pour on the pork belly. Using a large spoon, scoop up the maltose sugar. Lift your hands high and start lacing the pork belly until the maltose sugar coats the pork belly fairly evenly.

Roast in the oven for around 30-45 minutes. Midway through, turn the meat and baste with the remaining marinade. If you wish, you can also add the maltose sugar again (I used to but don't anymore). When the char siu is cooked, remove the meat from the rack and the gravy from the tray. Once the meat is cool, slice and serve with rice or noodles. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Love that keeps on giving

It's Boxing Day today. Time to put away the gift boxes. For many Christmas is about Santa and Christmas presents. For some, the toys will be played with for a a seaon before being tossed aside. Rarely will gifts last forever. But Pastor reminded us during Christmas service, at its heart, Christmas means no matter what else will disappear in the future God's love will last forever.

1 John 4:9-10
By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him.
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Best of Takayama, Japan

As we made our way south from Tokyo/Hakone to Kyoto, we took a detour cum side trip to the lovely town of Takayama, in the mountainous Hida district (west of Honshu Island). The journey on the Shinkansen involves a change of trains at Nagoya. The train journey from Hakone inclusive of transfers takes about 4.5 hours, but the scenery in the Hida region is spectacular. We also discovered later that the food rivals the scenery!

One of the many beautiful gorges in the Hida district

In spring, the cherry blossoms bloom by the riverside

Upon arrival in Takayama, we made our way on foot to our hotel, The Rickshaw Inn. As mentioned in an earlier post, it makes sense in Japan to use the luggage forwarding service. The Rickshaw Inn is centrally located in town. This small narrow inn is very popular among travellers as it is clean,reasonably priced and offers a little kitchen and laundry facility.

Our Japanese room - mattress on tatami mat.

Taller individuals (6 footers and above) should be careful when exiting the bedrooms as the door is quite short. They post a notice to be careful on the outside door but not on the inside. The bedroom is spacious but the bathrooms are rather narrow, typical of Japanese hotels.

We headed out to dinner to Origin, a Japanese pub (izakaya) located close to the train station. You won't find an English signage in the front, so look out for the bamboo poles.

As you enter the pub, you will come across a bar counter. Further inside, there are more rooms for dining. Origin has English menus but the staff don't speak much English.

Before we came to Japan, we had only heard of the famous Kobe Wagyu beef. When we arrived at the Hida district, we discovered a well-kept Japanese secret - the Hida beef - titled "The best beef in Japan" at the Eighth All Japan Beef Convention". Like the Kobe beef, the breed is also the Wagyu, but raised at the Hida district. Apparently, the success of the Hida beef is thanks to one bull "yasufukugo". According to some, since the yasufukugo was born, the Hida beef has become more marbled and tasty. I have to say that the Hida beef is the best I've tasted! Our first experience with the Hida beef at this local izakaya was good, but the best was yet to come.

Hida beef on Hoba Miso (DIY grill beef with Miso sauce on magnolia leaf)

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story