November 7, 2010

Shredded chicken, bok choi and Korean vermicelli in chicken broth

Shredded chicken, bok choi with Korean potato vermicelli in a clear broth made from two whole chickens, lean pork, and salty Jinhua ham.

The fat is skimmed off the top of the soup so this dish is almost fat-free but still very flavorful. The soup is a simpler, homemade free-style adaptation of Chinese "superior stock" (上湯). This dish is all about the soup. Soup is important in Chinese culture - it's comfort, medicine, culture and history in one steaming pot.

While I don't cook traditional Chinese food often, sometimes I like to experiment. This noodle soup turned out very well: it's my own customized mix of Shanghai vegetable noodles and Cantonese/Hainan chicken soup. The great thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever toppings or accompaniments that you like. The only drawback is that making the soup requires time and patience, but you can make ahead and put it in the fridge or freezer.

Soup recipe:
1 x chicken carcass (old chicken)
1 x old chicken (for soup)
chunk of lean pork (about 200 g)
a few thick slices of Jinhua ham (more if you're splurging)
several sprigs of spring onions
3 to 4 inch-long chunk of fresh peeled ginger
sea salt or other good quality salt
shiitake mushrooms or oyster mushrooms (optional)

  1. Rub in a good amount of salt into the chicken and pork (pretend you're exfoliating /giving it a facial). Rinse chicken and pork under running water briefly to get rid of any dirt and "frozen" flavor (you should be using fresh chicken too if possible but I am too cheap and lazy to get fresh sometimes and it works out ok, but if using formerly frozen then make sure you thoroughly rinse the meat so you don't get the "freezer chill" taste).
    NB: For the chicken, you can remove the skin and most of the fat in advance (leave a few bits of fat to give the soup flavor). If possible, keep the (thoroughly cleaned) chicken feet and head/neck: the collagen/gelatin gives the soup more umami flavor and that lip-smacking unctuousness. I usually remove the skin and fat from the neck and the butt area, deskin most of the chicken torso, but leave the harder-to-remove skin on the wings and drumstick areas.
  2. Chop chicken into bits so that both birds can comfortably fit into your pot. I get the butcher to do this; otherwise if you have whole birds, you can put one bird in at first, then put the other bird in at step 4. Using whole birds makes the removal process easier later.
  3. Clean and slice spring onions in half. Remove any withered parts. You can remove the roots if it's easier than cleaning the bottom.
  4. Put meat, ham, spring onions and ginger into pot. Salt generously, depending on how much of the salty Jinhua ham you put in. Bring to a boil, then turn to low heat and simmer until the meat and bones are almost falling apart. Skim off fat, scum and other stuff floating on the top at regular intervals.
  5. When soup is done, remove as much of the bones and meat as you can with tongs/spoon and then pour through a large strainer into a large bowl or container.
  6. This soup will freeze well or keep in fridge for a week or two. Once chilled and solidified, it's easier to remove the top layer of chicken fat. It should be a clear jelly once chilled due to the gelatin/collagen.

Chicken and bok choi noodle soup recipe

Shredded chicken meat
Fresh mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, shimeiji, etc.)
Bok choi or other vegetables (Napa cabbage, choi sum, spinach, etc. would be nice)
Chicken stock (see above recipe)
Korean vermicelli (or rice noodles, mung bean vermicelli, pho noodles....)
dash of salt/soy sauce/rice vinegar/lime juice
  1. Put chicken stock in saucepan. I tend to stretch the use of the chicken stock by using a 50:50 chicken stock and water combo (in this case, add enough salt to make up the taste).
  2. Add your chosen noodle and toppings. I used mushrooms and the leftover soup chicken meat, which was a bit tough but I didn't want to see it go to waste, together with bok choi. I used Korean potato vermicelli because I like its texture and taste but feel free to experiment.
  3. If the soup is lacking a little je ne sais quoi, add the following to taste: salt, soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice. (I think the slight sourness of vinegar or citrus juice really helps this soup, though).
  4. When toppings are cooked through, serve this dish in large bowl, piping hot.

November 3, 2010

Homemade vanilla gelato

Two cups of milk,
one cup whipping cream,
the scrapings of a vanilla bean pod,
half a cup of sugar,
four sunset-orange egg yolks =
delicious, light, fluffy homemade gelato!

Here's how:

Split lengthways and scrape the black beans/dots from the pod and put into the milk/cream mixture.

Whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy (hand or electric mixer; the choice is yours). (Don't let the sugar sit too long on top of the egg yolks or else a "skin" will form.) I used fancy Japanese eggs, hence the beautiful orange color. You can use free range or organic eggs as well - I would recommend doing so for this gelato in order to do justice to the expensive vanilla bean!

Heat vanilla/milk/cream mixture gently in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges. Don't let it boil or curdle!

Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour carefully into the egg/sugar mixture, whisking all the while (you can use hand whisk or electric mixer). Don't worry if small lumps form - you can strain these out later.

Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and under a low heat, stir constantly until you get a custard sauce-like consistency (i.e. should be thick and viscose enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon). Take off heat immediately. Strain into a bowl (you want to keep the black vanilla bits but not any egg custard lumps/skin) and cover; chill until cool (2-3 hours or overnight).

Freeze in ice-cream maker, then place in freezer to harden. If the gelato is too hard, you can "ripen" or soften it slightly by placing it in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from