Thursday, 27 May 2010

Dry Malaysian Mee Siam (Spicy Tangy Fried Vermicelli)

*If this post sounds familiar, it's because it's an update of one of my first blog entries last year entitled Tangy Nyonya Fried Meehoon, which was essentially a (less authentic) shortcut version using shrimpy chilli oil rather than the fresh blended spice paste below. Finally got to make the proper full-blown thing, and during daylight hours so good photos could be taken, so here you go! :)

Up until the point a friend who was moving back to KL decided to leave me all her leftover jars of sauces, I had never used fermented/salted/preserved soybeans (tau cheo) as an ingredient before. I think it will be a staple in my fridge from now on because I cannot BELIEVE what an amazing flavour it lends to this quintessential Nyonya-style noodle dish.

Stir-fried and therefore not to be confused with its wet Singaporean counterpart served with gravy, dry Malaysian Mee Siam is characterised by a deliciously robust combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavours, stemming from the many different bits that go into the spice paste. To make it easier for yourself, blend/slice/soak everything you need before starting to cook so it's all ready to be tossed in quickly.

Dry Malaysian Mee Siam (Spicy Tangy Fried Vermicelli)
Serves 2-3
  • Pre-preparation
Pound or blitz together to a thick paste and set aside:
2 cloves garlic
2 small Asian red shallots
6 dried chillies, soaked in hot water and deseeded
1 stalk lemongrass (white part only)
1 tsp dried shrimp paste (belacan)
1 heaped tbsp dried shrimps (heh bee)
2 tbsp fermented/preserved/salted soybeans (tau cheo)
A few candlenuts (optional)

200g dried vermicelli- submerged in hot water for a few mins, then drain and set aside.

2 eggs- either boil for 15 mins until hard-boiled then slice thinly, or whisk with a touch of salt, fry as a large omelette then shred into thin strips. Set aside as garnish later.

2 tsp tamarind juice (assam jawa)- soak some tamarind pulp in hot water and set aside to be strained into the noodles later.
  • To Cook
In a large wok, fry the prepared spice paste in a bit of oil over medium-high heat until fragrant.

Add the following in order and fry briskly:
200g peeled and deveined prawns
Some sliced fishcake/chicken/pork (if desired)
1 large cube fried beancurd (tau kwa), cut into small squares

Add the following and toss with a pair of chopsticks to combine well:
Prepared vermicelli (add a little bit of water if it sticks together)
A small handful of Chinese chives (ku chye), sliced into short lengths (I didn't have any this time so I replaced it with regular English chives)
Handful of beansprouts
1 tsp sugar
Dash of white pepper
Dash of fish sauce
Prepared assam jawa- push soaked tamarind pulp through a sieve into noodles, and discard the residual pulp
A few kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced (optional- this is my own little touch)

*I omit salt as belacan and taucheo are already salty- feel free to have a taste and season further if you think it's required.

Dish up and garnish with the prepared eggs, some thinly cut red chillies for colour, some sliced spring onions/Chinese chives/coriander (for a splash of green) and half a calamansi lime (or if it's unavailable like where I live, a wedge of normal lime makes a tolerable if inferior substitute).

Serve immediately, alongside some sambal if desired.

Version 2- With the shredded omelette garnish

Friday, 14 May 2010

Homemade Nutella (Hazelnut Chocolate Spread)

SAM TAN'S KITCHEN HAS MOVED! Please visit the new website/online store at You can also follow Sam on InstagramFacebook and Twitter. Thank you!

YES, Nutella made in your home, presumably by you, to the delight and wonderment of everyone who lives with you and gets to sample it :)

This instantly shot straight to the top of my Recipes to Test list when I saw several versions of it popping up on sites like Foodgawker. My first attempt turned out a little grainy (in future more thorough blending is required), but taste-wise it was absolutely spot-on.

Blend then spread as desired, or be piggy like me and eat it with a spoon :)

Homemade Nutella (Hazelnut Chocolate Spread)

150g hazelnuts- Roast at 200ยบ C for 10-15 mins until very fragrant, then rub vigorously with a cloth towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. Blitz in a small spice mill/blade grinder/blender until it forms a very smooth peanut butter-like paste.

Add and continue blending until smooth:
100g milk chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops of vegetable oil

Store in a jar at room temperature. Slather on everything!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Smoked Fish Cakes with Spring Onion and Chive

Sometimes mushing together a bunch of leftover ingredients that urgently need using up yields the most delicious result :)

These hearty flavour-packed patties are formed from a combination of potatoes that had started to quite seriously sprout, some gradually withering spring onions left from a previous recipe experiment, the last few lonely capers swimming around in a jar of vinegar and a lemon that had been waiting so long for its turn it had started to look a bit sulky. Throw in some smoked fish bought off a supermarket reduced rack, a good dash of seasoning and an egg to bind it all and voila- a warm and satisfying meal perfect for spring.

Adapt as needed to make it a starter or main, and serve alongside tartare sauce or salsa.

Smoked Fish Cakes with Spring Onion and Chive
Makes about 12 fishcakes

500g potatoes (2 large)- Cut into chunks and boil in salted water for about 15 mins until tender. Drain thoroughly until as dry as possible, then mash and set aside.

400g boneless smoked fish fillets (I used smoked cobbler which happened to be on discount, but any smoked fish works fine)- place in a deep frying pan with about 1 cup milk (or use water if you don't want to waste milk) and poach over low heat about 5 mins until the fish flakes easily. Lift the fish pieces out and break into chunks with a fork.

Combine the flaked fish and potatoes well in a large bowl with:
1 egg, beaten
A handful of fresh chives, chopped finely
A few spring onions, chopped
1 heaped tbsp capers, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Good squeeze of lemon juice (I used about 1/4 of a lemon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour about 3 tbsp plain flour onto a plate (or use breadcrumbs if preferred, or some people dip in flour then in egg then in breadcrumbs to create a thicker crust). Drop a tablespoon of the fishcake batter into the flour and press it lightly to form a round pattie. Use two tablespoons to flip and dust it until lightly coated on both sides. Shake of excess flour and place fishcake onto a tray/plate. Repeat until all mix is used up.

At this point, the fishcakes can be frozen for future use if desired.

To cook, heat some olive oil in a large heavy frying pan and fry several fish cakes at a time over medium heat, about 5 mins on each side flipping midway until golden brown. If cooking from frozen, don't bother defrosting- just
fry straight from the freezer for 10 mins each side.

Serve straightaway with a lemon wedge and tartare sauce or salsa. Dig in heartily with a fork!