Sunday, October 12, 2008


A whole chicken, pale-cooked for presentation; a ritual dish. The coconut broth is barely tinged with turmeric, to the faintest of yellow; necessary, because it would otherwise have a slight greyish hue. Traditional. A dish to calm the spirits of heads taken in war.

Originally published here:


One whole chicken.
Two to three each: bruised stalks of lemongras, whole shallots, whole green chilies, thick slices of ginger.
One Tsp each: salt, sugar.
Half Tsp each: white peppercorns, coriander seeds.
Quarter to half Tsp turmeric.
Generous pinches tamo kuntji, langkwang.
Two whole cloves, a bay leaf, and a piece of dried orange peel.
Eight cups water.
Four cups coconut milk.
Quarter cup white liquor (either Dutch gin, or Vodka).
A jigger of vinegar.

Bring all save chicken to a boil, simmer for five to ten minutes. Inundate the bird and bring the pot back to boil. Turn off heat. Weigh the bird down - a large ceramic bowl partially filled with water will do so nicely. Do not use a metal object as it will affect taste and appearance. Let the pot sit for an hour. Then remove the chicken to a broad basin.
With a slotted spoon remove all solids from the broth. Bring the broth back to a roiling boil and pour slowly over the chicken, making sure all of it is touched by the hot liquid. Drain chicken, reserve broth to a pot and bring back to boiling, then simmer for ten minutes.

Serve the chicken and broth separately; chicken cool, broth hot.
Eat with compressed rice, chili and fishpaste strifried longbeans, and ripped vegetables.

Lemongrass: Sere or Sae - a stalkgras with a pleasing lemon-like aroma used in South-East Asian cooking. Tamo kuntji: Kaempferia Pandurata (Boesenbergia Rotunda) - a root related to ginger and galangal, with minor antibacterial and anticancerous qualities. It has a perfumy bitter taste. In the west it can be found in Thai, Indonesian, and some Chinese stores - temo kunci (Indonesian), krachai (Thai), fingerroot, Chinese Keys (Singaporean English), 凹脣姜 (Cantonese: au-syun-keung). Langkwang: galangal (Kampferia Galanga, Alpinia Galanga), also called red ginger or dwarf ginger. Called Kha in Thai, Laos in Malay. Dried orange peel: dry your own, or purchase chan-pei (陳皮) in Chinatown, even though it comes from a different citrus (Citrus Aurantium). Dutch gin: not the same as the aftershave lotion favoured in the English speaking world, this is more like kummel - except it is flavoured with juniper berries, not caraway. The Oude Genever is a pot still product, and will take your legs out from under you if drunk to excess. The Jonge Genever is made in a patent still, and is much smoother, though still likely to commit treason on your judgment. Oude Genever is the favoured style of import-plonk in areas up from the coast. Longbeans: also called yard long beans, these are much preferred over haricots.

NOTE: The chili paste and fish paste are on the stir-fried vegetables, because they are NOT in the broth or on the chicken. The chicken is mild flavoured, to correlate to a head taken after downing the victim. Arabs are cowards and barbarians because they take prisoners, then behead their captives alive. Such a head concentrates fear and is useless. Gut-stab to kill, then cut to harvest the head; such is the only proper way.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Whenever some of my friends drag me to a new Chinese restaurant they have discovered that isn't actually run by Cantonese people, I usually order this dish. If they do it well, the place has promise. If not, not.
Often, alas, not.

Originally published here:

One block firm tofu (14 oz).
1/4 lb ground meat.
2 TBS chili paste.
2 TBS Szechuan hot bean paste.
2 TBS regular oil.
1 TBS chili oil.
½ TBS Szechuan peppercorns, roasted and finely ground .
½ Tsp fermented black beans, soaked and mashed.
2 scallions, cut to 2 inch lengths.
2 gloves garlic, chopped.
½ TBS soy sauce.
Quarter cup stock and a jigger of sherry.
Pinch of sugar, pinch of cornstarch - blended in a little hot water.

Cut tofu into chunks, blanch in gently boiling water, drain. Sauté the ground meat, garlic, and spicy bean paste in the two oils till the meat is no longer pink. Add the chili paste, dao see, and soy sauce, stir around to mix everything, then add the tofu, stock, and sherry. Cook, gently stirring (to prevent the tofu breaking up) for a few minutes, then add the fa-chiew, scallions, and the pinches of sugar and cornstarch which have been blended in a little hot water. 

Stir a little longer and plate it.

NOTESSzechuan hot bean paste: laat dou fan jeung (辣豆瓣酱). Also called 'Toban Jiang', or 'Toban Sauce'. Laat (辣) means hot. Buy hot.
Szechuan peppercorns: fa-chiew (花椒),alternative name: san-chiew (山椒). Chiew (椒) means pepper.
Fermented black beans: dou-see (豆豉).

Monday, October 6, 2008


Tamarao potato and bamboo shoot curry.

Originally published here:


Three cups match-stick cut potato.
One cup bamboo shoot, ditto.
Two or three shallots, minced.
Three to five cloves garlic, mashed, and an equivalent amount of ginger, ditto.
Three to five Roma tomatoes; peeled, seeded, chopped.
One and a half teaspoons each: cayenne, ground coriander.
Half a teaspoon each: ground cumin, turmeric.
Half a tablespoon shrimp paste, OR a suitable pinch of salt.
Generous pinch of sugar.
Half a cup each: ricewine or sherry, coconut milk, meat broth.
Cilantro and sliced green chilies to garnish.

Gild shallots in oil, add the garlic and ginger, stir briefly, add the spices, stir till fragrant, and seethe with a little water. Add the potato, cook for about five minutes till the liquid is gone. Add everything else, including the liquids, and cook for another ten or fifteen minutes (depends on how thick your matchstick cut potatoes are). Garnish and serve.

Bamboo shoot:
Edible young bamboo (called 'rabong' in Indonesian languages). Can be purchased in Chinatown in cans already blanched and sliced matchstickwise - simply rinse and drain before use.
If using fresh bamboo shoot, peel them, and trim away the root and any overly fibrous parts. Cut to the shape desired, and boil in a large pan of water for about twenty minutes. Do not cover the pan. This process removes the bitterness that makes raw shoots appealing only to pandas. Taste a little afterwards. If there is still some remaining bitterness, change the water and boil for another five minutes or so. Drain and rinse. Don't worry, they'll still be crunchy after cooking. Bamboo shoots are very low in calories, but a great source of fibre (hah, what a surprise!). They are reputed to be good for the heart, and both anti-viral and anti-cancerous in their effect on the body. Plus they taste good. That last bit is the most important reason to eat them. Really the only reason.
Shrimp paste: Trasi is the Indonesian version, being a dried dark brown smelly substance reminiscent of a bouillion cube..... A salty fishy rotten bouillion cube.
Nowadays I use the Cantonese version (鹹蝦醬 - haam haa jeung), which is a pungent purple-grey goop in a jar that keeps forever. It is high in salt, but also other minerals. Not very nutritious, but when cooked it is oh so tasty. Dipping green mango into a little of this is pure heaven. It should be in every kitchen, right next to the jar of sambal and the bottle of black vinegar.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Javanese black soup-stew.

Originally published here:


One pound stew beef or lamb chunks.
One onion, chopped.
One stalk sere (lemongrass), bruised.
Three to five cloves garlic, mashed, and an equivalent amount of ginger, ditto.
One teaspoon ground coriander.
Half a teaspoon each: turmeric, cayenne, cumin, langkwang powder.
Half a dozen soaked kluwak nuts, mashed up in a little hot water.
A few daon parot (kaffir lime leaves).
Pinches salt, pepper, sugar.
Scallion and cilantro to garnish.

Gild onion in oil, add the garlic and ginger, stir briefly, add the spices, then the meat. Cook, stirring, till the meat is no longer pink and the fragrance rises. Seethe with a little water and add the mashed kluwak, stirring to dissolve. Add everything else, plus water to cover generously. Simmer for about an hour. Garnish with scallion and cilantro.

Lemongrass (sere, serai, sae). A tropical stalk-grass that smells like candied lemon. Available in S.E. Asian markets. Keeps away bugs, so worth growing in your backyard.
Langkwang: Galangal (lengkuas, laos); related to ginger, has an old-fashioned almost medicinal smell. Do not use the dried LengKeung available in Chinatown, though - while it is a close relative, it is more suited for cooking bushmeats (!) as tonic than regular meats as dinner table food. The proportions used are also different.
kluwak nuts: The seeds of the Kulape tree (Kepayang; Pangium Edule). Kluwak which are available in the west are thoroughly processed and have been dried - they must be made soft by steeping in a little hot water for about ten or fifteen minutes, whereupon they may be mashed to a smooth paste with ease. They add a nice 'rusty' fragrance to dishes, and change the colour to brown-black. Very delicious.
Daon Parot: Kaffir lime leaf; a leaf that adds a fragrance between tea-rose and citrus. No substitute, but not absolutely essential. It can be purchased in markets catering to a Thai and Indonesian clientele.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Glutinous-rice sweets with pisang fire-roasted in banana leaves.

Originally published here:


3 cups glutinous rice.
1 - 1½ cups golden cane sugar.
Either two bananas, peeled and chunked.
Strips of meat from two young coconuts.

Banana leaves for wrapping

Soak rice in water for two hours. Drain, and grind to a smooth doughy consistency. Mix the sugar and the banana or coconut into the rice dough.
Wipe banana leaves clean, and pass over the fire. Cut into squares about the size of a plate.
Spread the rice mixture thinly over half of each piece of banana leaf, then roll into a sausage shape. Grill over coals till the inside is hot and goopy and the outside somewhat singed.
Serve warm.

Makes about two dozen pieces.