September 22, 2010

My Flaky Mid-Autumn Festival Treat and a Birthday!

人有悲歡離合,  People experience grief and joy, separations and togetherness,
月有陰晴圓缺,  the Moon waxes and wanes, and sometimes appears clear or cloudy
此事古難全。      it has never been an ideal picture all along.
但願人長久,      I hope that we are long-lived
千里共嬋娟。    so that we can share the beauty of the moon despite being miles apart.

Gazing at the moon often reminds me of the sentiments embedded in these graceful lyrics.

Some of you may have long been familiar with the above excerpt written by Su Shi (蘇軾, 1037-1101), who was a great poet from the Song-Dynasty China (宋代中國). Su’s beautiful words had me fallen in love with lyric Chinese poetry (詞) during my high-school years. And, I’ve always associated these lyrics of his with romance and Mid-Autumn Festival.

Turning Back the Clock

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) falls on the 15th day of the eighth month (八月十五) in the Chinese calendar (農曆). It is when the moon greets the world in its fullest, roundest and brightest. We celebrated last year’s on Oct 03. And this year, we mark the end of the summer harvesting season on Sept 22, which would be today. For many Chinese around the world, this day is about reuniting with loved ones, enjoying good foods, and soaking up the festivities.

Our clan, including extended family members, used to have an alfresco gathering on this special evening. We’d spend a few hours catching up with each other, sampling mooncakes (月餅), sipping on Chinese tea, as well as snacking on toasted melon seeds (瓜子) and peanuts, water caltrops (菱角) and pomelos (“綠柚” in spoken Cantonese; “柚子” in Mandarin). Sometimes, for the fun of it, we’d place pomelo rinds over children’s heads. The elderly in my family believe that such an act brings good luck.

Pomelos: our stock for this year's ...
On that evening, the youngsters, including me and my cousins, would take up the honor of lighting up the neighborhood with colorful lanterns (燈籠). Of course, all the outdoor merriment could only be realized on a warm and dry evening, under a clear and starry sky. We felt even luckier in the presence of a full moon. However, as years go by, with our family ageing, and with everyone pursuing different directions in life and getting busier, I can only relive those good old times in my head.

Another Happy Coincidence

This year, coincidentally, my American sister’s birthday falls on this festive season. Miss Keren Ruth, happy birthday! Thank you so, so much for inspiring me through and through, especially during my 32 months in Minnesota! I miss your company!

Now, no mooncake, no birthday treat from me. (Sorry, Keren!) I bake by moods and only as needed. Getting bogged down by work and my family’s ongoing relocation “project,” I’ve found neither the mood nor the need to fix mooncakes. So, the timing seems nice for me to clear some of my backlogs accumulated from mid-2009. Yay!

Reminiscing Flakiness

I first attempted making Chinese flaky pastries in July 2008. It was a little tricky initially. But once you’ve gotten a hang of it, getting the laminated dough right shouldn’t be an issue – even in the hot and humid weather of Malaysia!

Taiwanese "sun pastries" 太陽餅
Ugly-looking Taiwanese sun pastry (太陽餅): my maiden attempt at making Chinese flaky pastries back in July 2008

I liken laminating the doughs for Chinese flaky pastries to laminating the doughs for French pâte feuilletée and croissants, and Danish. There are a few differences, however, and one being when handling the doughs for Chinese flaky pastries, you’re much less likely to end up with a pile of uber greasy, sticky and doughy mess! (Pei-Lin still has no luck with laminating doughs the French way. It’s all the butter’s fault!)

Taiwanese "sun pastry" 太陽餅
Mmmm ... flaky & sweet ...
Much better looking: second attempt at Taiwanese sun pastry (dated February 2009)

The Lard in the Larder Long Gone

Traditionally, the fat used for Chinese flaky pastries is lard. When I was in the States, I had the opportunity to experiment with and use lard for that very purpose, and sometimes, for my pâte brisée as well. When used appropriately and adequately, pastries made with lard kill all other pastries made with shortening and/or margarine. To be more specific, I’m referring to pie crusts and Chinese flaky pastries made primarily with shortening! I’ve seen and tasted shortening-laden ones. Yuck!

Tau Sar Beng with Homemade Mung Bean Paste Filling 淡汶豆沙餅
Tau Sar Beng or Tambun Biscuits Innards with Homemade Mung Bean Paste Filling 淡汶豆沙餅
My home-made Tambun biscuits (淡汶餅), another Chinese flaky pastry of Malaysian-Chinese origin. Want to know why my mung bean-paste filling is dark? Read on here.

When I was in the States, it’s easy to purchase 2 kilograms (64 ounces) of – or more, lard off the supermarket shelf. Just like shortening, there, lard is sold in sticks and buckets, depending on how much you need to buy. As much as I hate to say, I did scrutinize the label on the bucket: The lard is partially hydrogenated. Lesson to remember: Moderation is still the key to everything in life.

This is what I used. (Image courtesy of TEXMEX FOODS)

Well before returning home for good, I already knew that the lard available back in Malaysia just isn’t the same as what I could get in the States. Is it because the lard here isn’t hydrogenated at all? So, it’s less fun to work with? *Shrug* I’m in the midst of settling down on a solution to the problem … Oh, well!

A Not-So-Happy Experience

Back in August 2009, just a week before I returned home from the States, I made Chinese flaky pastries to use up my home-made azuki bean paste at my family friends’. These chrysanthemum pastries (菊花酥), I think, would make a festive treat this Mid-Autumn Festival. Come to think of it, I’ve not made any Chinese flaky pastries since a year ago!

Azuki bean paste chrysanthemum pastries 中式菊花酥

Reflecting upon this particular “project,” I still perceive the result as an unsatisfactory one. I was angry at myself for the fact that in search of perfection, during the shaping process, I cut the bean paste-filled laminated dough a little too deep, that the baked pastries wound up almost too fragile to be handled! I was struggling to twist the dough without having it falling apart, too. And since I didn’t want to buy red maraschino cherries just for decoration, I opted to use red food gel instead. I was overly generous with the food gel, too! And so, my ugly pastries …

You may also be wondering, “The azuki bean-paste filling looks grainy!” Yup. Thanks to the lazy bone in me! After pressing 600 grams of azuki beans through a sieve, I told myself, “Skip that part in the future!” Very tedious! I spent like 2 hours over it!? So, when I made another batch of bean paste, I processed the beans in a blender instead. And, I consoled myself through hypnosis: “You’re making the more rustic Japanese tsubu-an … not smooth Chinese azuki bean paste …”

On top of that, my home-made azuki bean paste normally has WAY less sugar and fat. I used lard for my bean paste, too, which gave the end product a unique flavor. With that said, mine wasn’t as smooth, soft, greasy and pliable as store-bought one. I suppose if you’d used the latter instead, it’d have been much easier to shape the filled dough for chrysanthemum shape. Oh! My chrysanthemum pastries look paler as no egg wash was applied. *Sigh*

In the end, it was the lessons I gathered out of that particular episode that matter. Once I feel settled down, I’ll recreate chrysanthemum pastries. Who knows, I may tinker with the idea of using store-bought azuki bean paste instead … (Pei-Lin, this is so not you!)

Better Late Than Never

I’ll leave you with the dough recipe for Chinese flaky pastries, as well as the recipe for azuki bean paste. (Click on the hyperlinks to view the recipes.) Do try them out if you’re interested. Last but not least, before I sign off, here’s to wish once again

A happy, happy birthday to dearest Keren Ruth!

… And …

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival. It’s time to reunite with your loved ones. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

I certainly hope it’s not too late to say these!

The full moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival of 2007: my first time living miles apart from home

September 17, 2010

True Friends to Cherish, Great Cookies to Share

Gifts for Friends: Cookies All Wrapped Up

I thought I almost couldn’t make it. Really.

Because of Eid ul-Fitr, it was a long weekend in Malaysia. I nearly gave up on the idea of meeting up with good pals Swee San and Wendy. Why? There were too many things around me taking place that weekend, including my cousin’s wedding, job relocation, and the ongoing relocation work within my family.

A Memorable Weekend

“Go first, think later,” I told myself. Heck, glad that I made the right decision! I couldn’t imagine myself missing 10 hours of fun with two super cool and cheery ladies who like “teasing” me, who challenged me to be a rational shopper, and who made me laugh all the way through.

These three ladies exchanged ideas on and argued debated over a wide array of topics, including stuff that you won’t want to know. (Ah hem! Private and confidential. Haha!) All in all, the experience was a shopping marathon, a long session of laughing therapy, and more than 10 hours of yakking bonding moments – with occasional indulgence in food of course.

Coconut Butter Cookies

(By the way, I left home at about 11 a.m. and reached home at 11.10 p.m. last Saturday – breaking my earlier record with Wendy! I think we spent a little over 8 hours previously. But none of the five participants, including Tracie and Reese, really blogs about the June meet-up.)

It wasn’t my first time chilling out with Swee San and Wendy. Tracing back history, it was my fourth time seeing Swee San (or so I think …) and second time seeing Wendy. This latest meet-up of ours, to me, felt like a reunion of long-time buddies instead. “Old friends!?” you may wonder. “That’s fast!” Haha! I guess it’s probably due to the fact that we’ve been talking to each other almost every day; hence, the familiarity. We’re so far and yet, so near.

Anyway, we still yakked on our way back. Seriously, we can chatter away like no one’s business! Very kind of Swee San to drop Wendy and me at where we needed to be so that we could get home. That Saturday, Wendy gained more than 10 hours of freedom by letting her relatives babysit her daughters. (Haha!) So, once we’d dropped Wendy off at her relatives’, that was when I got to see Lydia, Wendy’s eldest girl, in person! One of my missions had been accomplished! When I met up with Wendy for the first time, she only brought her youngest girl Lyanne along. I’ve got to admit these girls are real sweethearts who can melt my heart easily. I hope I can see them again soon! (Visiting with the girls via fiber optics almost every day isn’t enough!)

A Big Shout-Out

Swee San and Wendy have already blogged about the Saturday meet-up. Do hop over to theirs for a glimpse of what the three of us were up to on the public holiday, if you’re keen to know more. (Pei-Lin is always the slowest! Ugh!) In the meantime, I’d like to thank:

Swee San, for her passion-fruit marshmallow. Though I can detect an eggy taste of the confection, the home-made marshmallow isn’t as sweet as store-bought one. It comes bursting with REAL and INTENSE passion fruit flavor! Good! Hey, pal! You’ve had me utterly convinced by now. Will be making my own on the days to come. (Pardon me for the lousy shot! I was racing against time on the following Sunday morning for my cousin’s wedding.)

Swee San's Passionfruit Marshmallow

… And Wendy, for this cute airtight vessel that resembles a cub. One thing for sure, cookie monster Pei-Lin will store her cookies inside. A very neat and thoughtful gift indeed!

A Gift From Wendy

Also, I’d like to give a big shout-out to these two buddies who lift me up, who listen to my stories, and who encourage me all along since the first days we knew each other.

From left to right: Swee San, Wendy, and me

Pei-Lin Scratches Head

Luckily, it was a long weekend, and I got to bake big batches of delectable goodies. I’d promised the ladies long ago to let them try more of my foods. At our last meet-up, I only managed to sneak in a small tub of chewy molasses cookies as I had to work the day before, which explained why I didn’t get to bake something specially for the ladies. The molasses cookies were from my baking escapade the Sunday before, which I have yet to blog about. And, I felt bad after that. (OK, I’m getting confusing here …) Anyway …

Avoid anything chocolaty. No raisins preferably. No coffee. No chunks of nuts. No spices added. Those were what I ought to abide by when I was thinking of what to make for especially, Wendy’s little girls. It was rather challenging to be honest since I’m so used to fixing chocolaty treats. Thank goodness! As I was racking my brain, a recipe I bookmarked long ago suddenly came to mind. It was the coconut butter cookie recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks “孟老師的100道手工餅乾 (Home-Made Cookie) [sic],” which is authored by famous Taiwanese culinary guru Zhaoqing Meng (孟兆慶).

Coconut Butter Cookies

When Simplicity Exceeds Expectations

It’s a bold statement, but these coconut butter cookies are among the best home-made butter cookies I’ve ever had so far. Nonetheless, blame myself for not studying the recipe carefully. I mistranslated the name of an ingredient. I didn’t know what’s known as “椰子粉” in Chinese actually refers to desiccated coconut – not coconut cream powder! So, ya know, I used the latter instead. But, it was a pleasant mistake I take pride in and would be glad to make again.

I tripled the recipe so that I’d have enough for Swee San, Wendy and her family, and for personal consumption. Little did I know they’d vanish in less than 4 days! Both my family and colleagues loved the cookies. I thought tripling the recipe would suffice! I was so wrong!

The coconut butter cookies truly speak for themselves. These bite-size morsels are extremely fragrant, and wonderfully buttery – with just the right sweetness. They are crunchy at the first bite. Yet, they would also give you that false impression of shortbread as you savor them, one at a time, in your mouth.

Coconut Butter Cookies

The cookies emanate that sweet vanilla smell. To me, surprisingly, there was barely a hint of coconut, especially on their last days on earth. Instead of maturing, I guess that tropical whiff just subsided as the cookies aged. The only downside is they are a tad greasy. So, with just two or three pieces, your butter cookie cravings shall be curbed in no time. (Hey, my brother gobbled up six cookies in one sitting!)

It was very sweet witnessing Lydia and Lyanne munching on the cookies! Extremely thrilled to have learned that the kids loved their treats! So, if you’re a huge fan of Danish butter cookies, and have been looking for a recipe that yields final products that taste like the real McCoy, give this recipe a shot! These cookies are incredibly easy to make. You’re not going to regret!

Coconut Butter Cookies

Coconut Butter Cookies 椰子奶油球
Adapted from “Home-Made Cookie [sic],” by Zhaoqing Meng    改自《孟老師的100道手工餅乾》。孟兆慶 著
Makes about 17 cookies  弄約17塊

100 g cake flour – sifted once
10 g cornstarch – sifted once
20 g coconut cream powder – sifted once
* The original recipe calls for desiccated coconut. You need not sift this. *

75 g unsalted butter – softened at room temperature
50 g powdered sugar – sifted once
¼ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Whisk (A) together thoroughly, then set aside for use later.
  2. Place (B) into a medium-sized mixing bowl, then blend the ingredients together slightly with help from a rubber spatula. Now, with an electric hand mixer, cream them up on high speed till pale and fluffy (i.e. buttercream-like consistency).
  3. With a rubber spatula or sturdy (wooden) spoon, gradually fold to mix the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, in two or three batches, till a dough has just formed – DON’T overwork the dough as you may risk getting tough cookies in the end.
  4. Wrap the dough up in plastic film, then let it chill and rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
    * I just left the dough in the mixing bowl and place a sheet of plastic film over the bowl. *
    * Halfway through making the cookies, I went out for grocery shopping. So, I left the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours, which made the dough far easier to handle later on. *
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge. Then, scoop out 15 grams of dough for each cookie and roll it into a ball. Place the shaped cookie dough on parchment-lined baking sheet(s), leaving about 4 centimeters apart in between the cookies. The dough will spread during baking. Repeat till the dough is used up.
  6. First, bake at 160°C for about 25 minutes. After that, turn off the oven and leave the cookies inside, with the oven door shut, for about 10 minutes.
    * Since I tripled the recipe, I got more cookies. For my subsequent batches (after the first round of baking), they required less time to bake as the cookies seemed to brown faster in the seemingly hotter oven. Well, just monitor the oven closely while the cookies bake. *
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven, and transfer them to cooling rack(s) to let cool completely before serving and/or storing in airtight container(s).
Coconut Butter Cookies

September 9, 2010

A Last-Minute Dish: Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and Jew's Ear 香菇木耳燒雞

These days, I have to struggle to even get my butt down and start writing away on the computer. That’s simply because I’m jaded – and lazy! I wonder if it’s a sign of the blogging momentum in me waning … Yikes! And, that’s not it!

Late last week, I planned on publishing another entry here. Alas, it never happens. Well, some bug held hostage of me, which had me fall sick and gave me a throat infection. Even though it’s been close to a week, my voice hasn’t fully recovered yet. It’s cracked, but I sort of like it. Haha! Of course, I do hope it’ll be normal again soon … I miss my voice.

Initially, I planned on sharing a bake with you, which was done several weeks back. I guess the mood has sneaked away. Haha! Oh, well! Let’s just talk about what happened last Sunday evening instead before I forget about it.

Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and  Jew's Ear 香菇木耳燜雞

Getting Stumped (Almost)

It was one of those lazy Sundays on which all I wanted was to procrastinate and slack away. It was one of my least productive weekends, I should say. I didn’t bake anything; however, I did cook up three dishes, and one of which was a last-minute and fairly “random” dish that I threw together.

My family has been very busy with the relocation work at our new house. Last Sunday was no exception. That left a weak Pei-Lin home. My mom gave me five half-thawed chicken legs and summoned me to whip a dish out of them for dinner – at about 3 in the afternoon, when my family’s dinner usually kicks in between 7 and 8 in the evening. Do bear in mind that I absolutely have to have my food shots taken with natural lighting. So, that left me with a deadline, in which I had to concoct somethin’ delectable with the chicken legs by 6 – before the sun set.

Like I said, the lazy bone had had me conquered that Sunday. What was worse, I was chatting away online with Wendy – when I was supposed to be beating my brains out in the kitchen. Haha! When 4 p.m. struck, I still had no clue as to what to cook with the chicken legs. Why? Most of the chicken dishes I’ve made so far required long hours of marination. And, it’s my habit to have the chicken thawed overnight, in advance, so that I can work on the meat the soonest possible for the best results. I prefer planning things ahead of time. (See, that’s why I say I’m my mom’s opposite. Are you convinced by now?)

The Synergistic Effects of Words and Visuals

Naturally, I turned to Wendy for ideas. I can’t really recall how the conversation went. She suggested making her pan-fried oyster sauce chicken (幹煎蠔油雞). Imagine a slightly panicked Pei-Lin: She didn’t have much time left to flip through pages of recipes. But, her suggestion did prompt me to browse through the first page of the chicken recipes on her blog. I was skimming through only pictures because I was getting impatient!

Funny enough, coupled with the pictures of her wontons in chicken soup (雲吞雞湯), the picture of her braised chicken with ginger (薑燜雞) suddenly lit up the light bulb in me! Instantaneously, my mind traveled down the memory lane fast … to my college days in the States, when I’d fix meals almost every day.

This familiar picture seized me right on the spot:
Simple home-cooked fare on a freezing wintery night in December 2008, when I was still studying in the States.

That was something I’d fix for myself out of laziness. A simple meal I’d tuck into on freezing wintery days: just some angel-hair spaghetti tossed in a Chinese-inspired gravy, which has sucked up all the flavors given out by the shiitake mushrooms (香菇) used during braising (燒). The pasta is also topped with dried bean curd skin (腐竹), ground pork, and sometimes, Jew’s ear (黑木耳) and/or scallions. Of course, being a veggie lover myself, I have to take my noodles with some greens. In this case, it’d be blanched romaine lettuce (油麥). To make things more wholesome, I’d sometimes prepare fried egg to go with the meal too.

What makes me crave for this kind of dish every so often is the wonderfully flavorful gravy. I’m unsure of where my idea for such dish derived from. Perhaps, it was pure randomness that came out of my experience. No wonder some of the ingredients used in Wendy’s dishes had served as prompters and reminders for me. Thank you, Wendy! Now that we know we share one commonality: We skim through pictures when we run out of ideas of what to cook. Haha!

(By the way, it was only till later that I realized Wendy has another similar dish called chicken with Chinese mushrooms [冬菇木耳雞]. Pure coincidence! Haha! But hey, great minds think alike! I’d reckon this is a rather common dish among the Chinese households in Malaysia, eh? I’m not sure about the Chinese in other regions across the world. Do enlighten me if you know anything about the dish. Thanks!)

An Impromptu Dish

In the end, I decided to incorporate that gravy idea to the chicken legs, using what we usually have on hands to whip up a dish. So, that left me with no dried bean curd sticks and scallions. No pork, too, because I was supposed to use up the chicken legs. (Duh!) And since I didn’t have the chicken legs chopped up, I made slits across the chicken legs to ensure thorough cooking of the meat. The toughest part was to recall how I prepared the dish because I didn’t really have a recipe for that in the first place! Typical of Chinese cooking, I did everything through eyeballing and estimations.

Tender chicken braised in amazingly flavorful gravy that’s enlivened by the earthy scent of shiitake mushrooms, and jazzed up with the simple touch of staple seasonings and spices in East Asian cooking. The inclusion of Jew’s ear gives the dish a rather interesting texture: somewhat soft and yet, crisp to chew on.

It was a simple home-cooked fare. Though nothing much to brag about, I was elated to see how my dad and brother enjoyed my last-minute dish. There wasn't much leftover toward the end. And I'm a happy girl.

Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and  Jew's Ear 香菇木耳燜雞

Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and Jew's Ear 香菇木耳燒雞

* Like most Chinese cooking, the following are recorded through eyeballing. Please feel free to adapt the recipe to your liking. *

5 medium- or large-sized (chicken) drumsticks -- with skin on

3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce 生抽
Dash of ground white pepper 白胡椒粉
2 tsp cornstarch

1-1/2 Tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
* I used regular cooking oil. *

Enough cooking oil to half-submerge the drumsticks in and for frying them later on
* I used about 3/4 cup. *

Enough cooking oil for stir-frying
* I used about 3 Tbsp. *
2 large cloves of garlic -- peeled and minced
5 (0.5 centimeter-thick) slices of fresh ginger -- julienned

4~5 large dried shiitake mushrooms 幹香菇 -- scrubbed lightly and washed to clean well; submerged in hot water for a while till softened and look "swollen," then drained well; remove and discard the tough stems; sliced into 1 cm-thick strips
* I do actually keep the stems if they turn out to be soft enough to be cooked through for consumption. *
* You can choose to reserve the water used for submerging the mushrooms in for use in step #7. If it winds up in insufficiency, just make up the rest with more water and/or chicken stock. *
2 large pieces of Jew's ear 黑木耳 -- soaked in room-temperature for a while till softened and look "swollen," then drained well; sliced into 1 cm-thick strips
Enough water for stir-frying
* Just a little will do. *

About 2 cups water
* You can utilize the water used for submerging the mushrooms in (as described above) in step #7. If it is shy from 2 cups, just make up the rest with more water and/or chicken stock. *
1/2~2/3 Tbsp hoisin sauce 海鮮醬 -- or to taste, as this is used to add sweetness
1/2 Tbsp mirin 味醂

Salt -- to taste
* I used about 3/4 tsp. *
Ground white pepper -- to taste
* I used about 1/8 tsp. *
Sesame oil 麻油 -- to taste
* I used about 1/4 tsp. *
A few drops of dark soy sauce 老抽
* Dark soy sauce is used to "darken" up the gravy slightly. *

2 tsp cornstarch
About 1/3 cup water
  1. Wash to clean the (chicken) drumsticks, then have them drained well to remove excess water. To each drumstick, cut some slits across to ensure thorough cooking of the meat later on.
  2. Combine the drumsticks and (A) together, then mix in the 1-1/2 Tbsp cooking oil to coat the drumsticks well; leave aside to marinate for 1~2 hours.
    * Mixing in the cooking oil lastly locks up the flavors of  the ingredients during marination. If you combine the oil together with the rest of the ingredients, things won't harmonize well as oil repels water. I picked up this trick LONG ago, can't remember when. *
    * Obviously, I marinated mine for 1 hour due to the lack of time. *
  3. Over high heat, heat up enough cooking oil for frying the drumsticks in a big wok. To know whether the oil is hot enough, simply submerge part of a bamboo chopstick in the hot oil. If you can see tiny "bubbles" around the chopstick that keep "swimming" upward (imagine looking into a glass of fizzy drink), the oil is hot enough for use to fry the chicken.
  4. Drain the drumsticks to get rid of as much moisture (from the marinade) as you can, then fry them in the hot oil -- turning them halfway through and later, every now and then to prevent burning -- till they look golden brown on the outside. The inside will remain half cooked, though. Beware as the oil will splatter like crazy since there's still some moisture in and on the chicken meat, especially from the marinade. (NOTE: This is not deep-frying. In Chinese, I call this "半煎炸," which literally means "to pan-fry partially and to deep-fry partially at the same time." If you may, I shall call this "to shallow-fry.") Now, dish up the half-cooked chicken and set aside.
  5. Scoop out excess cooking oil from frying the chicken, reserving only 3 Tbsp in the same wok. Over high heat, heat the reserved oil till its smoking hot. Throw in the ginger to stir-fry first, then followed by the garlic, till they are aromatic. The sequence is as such because the ginger is julienned into somewhat larger sizes when compared to the minced garlic; hence, less chances of overburning both the ingredients over extremely high heat during stir-frying.
  6. Now, stir in the mushrooms and stir-fry briefly till aromatic. Then, mix in the Jew's ear and stir-fry to cook the edible fungus for a bit. And as you stir-fry, gradually stir in some water, 1 Tbsp at a time, from the side of the wok, to the mixture within. This is to create steam in the wok, which helps to cook the fungi better. Don't overdo this step!
  7. Dump the half-cooked chicken and (B) to the mixture in the wok, then stir slightly just to combine things well; bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the wok to let the mixture simmer for 15~20 minutes, till the liquid within has reduced by half.
  8. Season the mixture in the wok with (C). Now, turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to boil again. Mix (D) together to get a slurry, and gradually stir it in to the wok -- gently stirring the mixture within the wok gently at the same time, too, to blend well. Once the liquid has thickened into a gravy, let it cook for another 1 minute.
  9. Turn off the heat. Dish up and serve immediately with bowls of piping-hot steamed rice. My dad ate his with congee.
P.S. To all my Muslim friends, though I know it's awkward and weird to include this here, I'd still like to wish you a Happy Eid ul-Fitr! (In Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Raya kepada semua muslimin dan muslimat!)
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