Something happened during the same week in which I published a blog entry about my birthday. It may seem insignificant to others. But to me, it carried significant weight. I checked my mails one morning before leaving for work … just to find myself getting surprised by the birthday message from Siukwan, a fellow food blogger from Hong Kong.
Surprised!? Yes, as that was totally unexpected! I was over the moon when I saw the sweet note that Siukwan had dropped me. In fact, her words made me smile for pretty much the whole morning. I appreciate all other comments nonetheless. Please don’t get me wrong; every message I’ve gotten thus far is equally meaningful.
By nature, since I don’t have much time to waste, I’m a minimalist both in the kitchen and at the dining table. I’d treat myself to some lavish home-made dishes or desserts only during weekends. When I began taking baking and cooking seriously back in 2007, I was a silent food blog reader who never really bothered to leave comments. (Haha! I was ruthless, huh?)
Mulling over those days, I realized the first blogs that I read regularly have influenced me a lot. As I didn’t own any cookbook, I relied on these bloggers heavily. Siukwan’s blog was one of them, and has been with me since mid-2008. I’ve forgotten how I stumbled upon her blog back then, though.
What pulls me back to Siukwan’s Kitchen? Friendly recipes, mouthwatering dishes that make great use of the most basic of all ingredients and seasonings, awesome styling and photography, as well as her sense of humor and witty writing. (If you can read traditional Chinese characters and understand Cantonese, I’m sure you’ll find her writing fun to read.) The simple, clean and uncluttered design of her blog is another factor, too. Her virtual kitchen gives me that warm homey feel I look forward to.
I’m a slow blogger. Retrospecting the archives, however, made me realize that I’d actually blogged about five of all the recipes I’d adapted from Siukwan’s Kitchen. They’ve been recreated over and over again in my kitchens – in northern Minnesota and Malaysia:
- Cantonese steamed egg custard (鮮奶燉蛋), which took me a few attempts to finally get the texture right;
- Cantonese-style fried chicken with lemon sauce (西檸煎軟雞), one of my all-time favorite dishes;
- Chinese-style baked spare ribs (金沙骨), which I’ve found to be rather addictive;
- Claypot rice pudding (砵仔糕), which is a popular street snack in Hong Kong and a sweet invention from Toisan, Guangdong (廣東台山), where my ancestors called home;
- Steamed rice topped with spare ribs in fermented black bean sauce (豉汁排骨蒸飯), which is, I believe, one of the most creative dishes Siukwan has ever produced, with just a simple modification to the Cantonese classic. (小軍，我鍾意吃豉汁排骨。這道菜的確是一個非常好的轉變。一鍋熟！我這個懶蟲拍手叫好！哈哈哈！)
I have yet to blog about some other recipes from Siukwan’s Kitchen, all of which I’ve tried replicating a few times. For now, retrieving from my piles of backlogs, allow me to present to you another recipe from her kitchen: steamed chicken with fermented tofu (腐乳蒸雞).
This has become a favorite dish of mine. While Siukwan uses chicken wings, I’ve used chicken thighs, drumsticks, and even chicken breasts to prepare this dish. The whole idea of this dish works fine with just about any part of the chicken that I can lay my hands on whenever I go shopping at the neighborhood’s wet market or supermarkets. (Nonetheless, I’m aware that some people just aren’t fans of the chicken breast. This is especially true in our region, where the chicken thigh and drumstick are prized. In America, I saw quite the opposite.)
With just those few basic ingredients and seasonings in a Chinese kitchen, what you need to do next is marinating the fowl with the other ingredients for a while before steaming it. What a healthy way to fix a healthy dish! Compared to other chicken dishes, this particular one feels relatively “lighter.” (A meaty dish can never be described as light, huh?)
The unique, complex and yet humble flavors of the salty fermented tofu (腐乳) accentuate the sweetness of the meat. This dish goes very well with steamed rice. My brother even slurped up the gravy in one sitting!
|Image courtesy of Wang's Oriental Food Store. I love fermented tofu. It’s an acquired taste. There are varieties to this traditional Chinese delicacy that you can choose from. I use plain “white” fermented tofu (白腐乳) for this dish. You can try experimenting with other varieties, too; however, I don’t recommend that.|
Like I said, cooking is a live science. So, eyeball and adjust things to your liking as you play along with the recipe. And before I forget, don’t skip the scallion for the slight pungency and savory touch that it brings!
(Scroll further down for the recipe, if you’re interested in trying out this dish.)
Steamed Chicken With Fermented Tofu 腐乳蒸雞
Adapted from Siukwan’s
6 chicken drumettes
1 piece preserved tofu (腐乳) – mashed
* I use the plain “white” variety (白腐乳). *
¼ Tbsp brine that comes with the fermented tofu (腐乳汁)
¾ tsp minced garlic
1¼ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp sesame oil (麻油)
½ tsp regular cooking oil (i.e. one that’s neutrally flavored, e.g. vegetable oil)
1 tsp granulated sugar
¾ tsp salt
Enough scallion(s) – finely chopped
- Wash to clean the chicken drumettes really well, and then pat dry. Now, “score” to make two or three slits over each drumette.
- In a big bowl, combine (A) and the drumettes together; cover and set aside to marinate for 1 hour.
* I’ve tried marinating mine in the fridge overnight. I store the drumettes and marinade in an airtight container, or place them in a bowl or the steaming dish that I’ll be using, and cover the whole deal with cling wrap. The longer the chicken gets marinated, the tastier and more flavorful it will be. *
- Over high heat, bring the water in the steamer or wok to a rolling boil. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a steaming dish. Steam it over high heat, indirectly above the boiling water (say about 2 inches above), for 15~20 minutes or till the meat is cooked through. I check the meat’s doneness by poking a chopstick into the fleshiest part of any one of the drumettes – the meat is cooked when the juice from within runs clear.
- Remove the dish from the steamer. Yields quite an amount of gravy actually. So, you may want to pour the gravy into another vessel to serve separately. Next, sprinkle some finely chopped scallion(s) on top of the chicken. Serve immediately.