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Soya Sauce Braised Chicken


(serves 4)
Braising in soya sauce is one of the most basic Chinese cooking styles. My recipe is slightly modernized but its essentially the same Chicken In Soya Sauce that my mother used to cook for me when I was young. My ‘trick’ is to cook the chicken for only a short amount of time but have it soak in the braising liquid for a long time. The result is chicken that is really tender but still tasty. Its a great for to cook chicken if you don’t have an oven.   
 

Ingredients Soya Braised Chicken

  1. Chicken Leg with Thigh (4)
  2. Dark Soya Sauce (1/4 cup)
  3. Chinese Wine (1/4 cup)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Maple Syrup
  6. Five Spice Powder
  7. Nutmeg
  8. Black Pepper

Optional Ingredients in photo

  1. Potatoes
  2. Bok Choi
  3. Egg
  4. Konnyaku Vermicelli (aka Shirataki)

Preparation 

  1. Defrost the chicken completely and pad dry with kitchen towels. Trim off any visible chunks of fat on the the thigh with a pair of scissors. The skin tends to shrink so leave any excess skin on.
  2. Marinate the chicken in 4T of maple syrup.
  3. Prepare your optional ingredients (see notes below) at this stage. If they require more than 7 minutes of cooking time, par-boil them for a while, otherwise, just cut them to the right size.
  4. Next, cut an onion into thick rings. Choose a pot which the chicken will fit snugly in a single layer. Stir fry the onions in the pot with 3T of vegetable oil over a very low flame.
  5. After the onion becomes soft and starts to caramelize, this will take some time, mix 1/4 cup dark soya sauce, 1/4 cup Chinese wine with 1 cup water and add this to the pot.
  6. Turn up the heat and bring to a strong boil. Add 1 heaped T of sugar, 1T five spice powder, 1T nutmeg and 1T black pepper.
  7. Arrange the chicken legs nicely into the boiling pot upside down and pour in all the left over maple syrup marinade. Top up with the optional ingredients to bring up the level of the liquid. Ensure the chicken is fully submerged. The vegetables don’t need to be completely covered as the liquid will be splashing about as it boils.
  8. Boil the chicken for exactly seven minutes. Leave the pot uncovered so the liquid can thicken and place the cover on only for the last 30 seconds. After turning the fire off, leave the pot covered for several hours, preferably overnight. This is the part where the flavour soaks into the chicken.
  9. You don’t want the meat to be overcooked, so remove the chicken first when reheating. When the braising liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat off before putting the chicken legs back in the pot. Give the chicken 5 min to warm up before serving.

Notes

  • You can swap in or add all kinds of other flavours to the soya sauce at step 6 depending on your preference, for example ginger slices, cinnamon, cloves.
  • There are many optional ingredients you can add to the pot with your chicken, just remember they must be of a type that does not adsorb too much flavour. For the photo I used potatoes, bok choy and shirataki, a yam based vermicelli which is already mostly water. Other possible options are chestnuts, yam and any kind of leafy vegetables.
  • If you don’t have Chinese wine, try sherry. My favourite for this recipe is actually sake. Do not skip the alcohol as it is needed to mellow out the soya sauce. It will evaporate anyway.
  • If you are using chicken breast meat, consider brining it first.
  • There will be lots of chicken-flavoured braising liquid left over. It is very useful. You can use it to braise additional vegetables that cannot be left in the braising liquid overnight, like eggplant, carrots, mushrooms. You can also use them to marinate boiled eggs (as in picture), as a BBQ marinade, to fry noodles etc. If you strain the liquid before storing it in an air-tight container in the fridge, it can easily last a fortnight (it should congeal into a gel).  
 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Chawanmushi – Japanese Steamed Egg


(serves 5)
Chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard commonly served in Japanese Cuisine. Unlike its Western counterparts, it is a savoury custard. A variety of bite sized food items are burried within the custard, given it a subtle meaty flavour that lingers in the mouth. Chawanmushi contains no milk or cream, giving it a light and delicate texture that is as smooth as tofu. It can be served as an appetizer in any meal, formal or casual, making it a very versatile dish.
 
Main Ingredients ChawanMushi
  1. Eggs (3)
  2. Mirin
  3. Sake
  4. Hon Dashi
  5. Soya Sauce

Other (Optional) Ingredients

  1. Chicken
  2. Shrimp
  3. Kamaboko (fish cake)
  4. Shiitake (mushroom)
  5. Carrot
  6. Ginko Nuts

Preparation DobinmushiCM Ingredients

  1. First we start by making the dobin mushi, which is a stock with bits of meat and vegetables in it. You can basically use any kind of ingredients but I’ll assume you are using the ingredients listed in the photo.
  2. Marinate 5 finger tip sized pieces of chicken and 5 small shrimp in 2T mirin and 1t soya sauce.
  3. Slice a large fresh (i.e. not dried) shiitake mushroom into 5 segments. Cut 5 thin slices of carrot and 5 slices of fish cake.
  4. Bring to a strong boil 1.75 cups of water with 1 heaped T of hon dashi pellets.
  5. Add all the cut and marinated ingredients into the pot, including the marinade. Give it a quick stir and immediately turn off the fire. Leave covered for five minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Chawanmushi

  1. Beat 3 eggs in a pitcher with 2T sake.
  2. When the dashi stock has cooled, fish out all the boiled ingredients and distribute them equally into the tea cups.
  3. Pour the dashi into the pitcher, mixing it well with the egg.
  4. From the pitcher, pour the custard mixture through a strainer into the cups. Don’t fill the cups beyond 85% of their capacity.
  5. Add a cup of water into a large pot with a steaming rack. In any case, ensure that the water does not reach up the rack.
  6. Arrange the cups onto the rack with their covers on. Bring the water to a boil with the (pot) cover off. This serves to warm up the custard a bit.
  7. When the water is boiling, cover the pot and leave on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Leave the pot covered with heat off for a further 5 minutes for custard to firm up.
  8. Serve hot in the original cups, covers still on and with a tea spoon. It is normal for a small amount of dashi(soup) to remain after the chawanmushi is cooked.

Notes

  • ‘Chawan’ means tea cup while ‘Mushi’ means steamed, so chawanmushi translates as ‘steamed cup (of egg)’. Similarly, ‘Dobin’ means teapot and dobinmushi transalates as ‘steamed teapot (of soup)’. It is not an intermediate ingredient but a distinct soup in itself; note the version here is not the way to make a proper dobinmushi. 
  • If you don’t have tea cups with covers, you can just use a double sheet of foil which you crumple snugly over the top of each cup seperately. The cups should however be the oriental type made of thick porcelain. 
  • Do not leave the cups uncovered; condensate will mar the custard surface while the chawanmushi will get cooked unevenly.
  • It is very important to strain the custard mixture. Do not skip this step or there will be bubbles in the chawanmushi. There will also be sediment from the stock and also bits of egg white which do not steam well.
  • If you like, you can put various decorative or fragrant items on the chawanmushi surface immediately after it is steamed, like a perilla leaf or a slice of kamaboko. 
  • If you can’t get some of the other ingredients listed at the beginning that’s ok; you can substitute anything you like as long as you follow these guidelines:
    • it is small (like a ginko nut) 
    • it doesn’t bleed colour (portobello for example stains the custard)
    • it doesn’t have too strong a taste (fisk ok, lamb not so much)
 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Appetizers, Japanese, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Coq au Vin with Chicken Breasts


(serves 3)
Coq au Vin is a wholesome simmered dish which hails from France. Traditional Coq au Vin recipes typically get you to boil your chicken to death as the flavour of the red wine matures and seeps into the meat. This method doesn’t work too well with chicken breasts which become dry and hard. To keep your chicken breasts tender, you’ll see from the recipe that I’ve taken a different approach. Since the aim is to cook a (more) healthy dish with white meat here, I’ve also factored in a way to bypass the need for chicken skin or lardons to react with the tannin in the wine
 
Ingredients Chicken Breast - Coq au Vin
  1. Chicken Breasts (600g)
  2. Luncheon Meat (200g)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Shallots (8)
  5. Mushrooms (100g)
  6. Carrot (1)
  7. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  8. Red Wine (1 cup)
  9. Port (1/4 cup)
  10. Brandy (1/4 cup)
  11. White Rice (1T)
  12. Butter
  13. Chicken stock cube (1/2)
  14. Sage
  15. Thyme
  16. Oregano
  17. Paprika

Preparation

  1. Before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, brine your chicken breasts overnight or for at least 8 hours according to the recipe in this earlier post.
  2. Dry the brined chicken breasts with kitchen towels and rub on a dusting of paprika.
  3. Peel the garlic, shallots and onion. Cut the onion into 8 ‘quarters’ and slice the carrot into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Slice the luncheon meat (a.k.a. spam) block into 5 slices. Place this into a pot with half a mashed chicken stock cube, 1 cup of red wine, 1/4 cup port and 3 cups of water. Turn on the heat and bring to a low simmer.
  5. Add the garlic cloves, onion, shallots and carrot pieces. Sprinkle in 1 heaped T of raw rice  that has been rinsed (2T if cooked, without the rinse).
  6. Add 1t each of chopped sage, thyme and oregano. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour, uncovered. Top up with a bit of water as and when needed.
  7. OK, its one hour later. Melt 20g of butter in a second pot which is just big enough to fit the chicken breasts flat and without overlapping. When the butter begins to darken, sear the chicken breasts briefly in the butter to seal them and then quickly add the wine stew minus the luncheon meat.
  8. Top off with 1/4 cup brandy and the mushrooms (cut into halves). Make sure all the chicken is completely submerged.
  9. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, or until you notice that the meat is just beginning to shrink. Turn off the fire and leave covered for half an hour while the chicken continues to slow cook. You can serve your Coq au Vin anytime thereafter, but its best to leave the pot to sit for a few hours as more wine flavour will be infused into the chicken.
  10. Briefly bring to a second boil before serving. If you need to thicken the stew further, boil it down but with the chicken breasts temporarily taken out – return the chicken to the pot for a final quick reheat. Taste and add salt if needed at the very end.

Notes

  • As you’ve noticed, we do the cooking in two stages. Making the wine vegetable stew first without the chicken is the ticket to getting the wine to mature without overcooking the chicken breast. This is followed up by a short cooking time and long soaking time for the chicken to get tender flavourful chicken, a technique they use in making Hainanese Chicken Rice.
  • Normally chunks of salted pork fat called lardons and chicken skin are needed to neutralize the tannin of red wine. This is where the luncheon meat comes in. In fact since luncheon meat contains ground up connective tissue, it works even better to mature the red wine. The other good thing about using luncheon meat is that it can be removed easily.
  • The rice is a convenient way to thicken the stew without the trouble of making a roux with flour.
  • Burgundy, which is light, is normally the wine of choice for Coq au Vin while a heavier wine like Bordeaux is used for braising collagen rich beef cheek and oxtail. With all the collagen in luncheon meat, you can afford to use a heavier wine for a more robust stew.  
 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in French, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Claypot Chicken Rice – Rice Cooker version


(serves 3)
Claypot Chicken Rice is Cantonese comfort food classic where rice is flavoured with chicken and sweet soya sauce. Traditionally, Claypot Chicken Rice is cooked in a claypot as the name implies but in modern times it is very often cooked in a rice cooker at home so it is done perfectly every time. The recipe is somewhat special in that the rice and chicken are cooked separately, and then again together. Additional items used to flavour the rice are fragrant Chinese sausages and Shiitake mushrooms. The chicken is tenderized with bicarbonate of soda, making it super tender and juicy. 
 
Ingredients Claypot-style Chicken Rice
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (1)
  2. Red Chinese Sausage (2)
  3. Brown Chinese Sausage (2)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Raw Jasmine Rice (1.5 cups)
  6. Minced Ginger (2t)
  7. Dark Soya Sauce
  8. Chinese Wine
  9. Vinegar
  10. Sesame Oil
  11. Coriander Seed Powder
  12. Corn Starch
  13. Bicarbonate of Soda

Preparation Part I

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut it into bite sized chunks, You can leave the skin on. Marinate in 3T of water, 2T soya sauce, 1T sesame oil, 1T Chinese wine, 2t corn starch, 1t sugar, and 0.5t bicarbonate.
  2. Soak 4 shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of cool water plus 2T soya sauce and 1T sugar. Midway through the soaking, snip off the stems and discard them.
  3. Cut off the tip of the sausages with the string attached and slice them into 1/3 inch pieces.
  4. Rinse the raw rice a few times it in the detachable rice cooker pot. Add 90% of the amount of water you would normally use. Mix in the sausage pieces and set to cook as per normal. Use Jasmine Rice or any other type of long grained rice.
  5. After an hour has passed since step 1, and the rice cooker has gone to ‘keep warm’ mode, add 1T of vinegar to the chicken and mix well.
  6. Cut the mushrooms in the quarters and coarsely mince 2t of ginger while the vinegar neutralizes the sodium bicarbonate.
  7. Fry the ginger in 3T of vegetable oil in a pan. After the oil has been splattering for 30 seconds turn up the heat and add the chicken plus marinade. Stir fry the chicken, the idea is to get the chicken pieces glazed.
  8. Next, add the mushrooms, including the soaking liquid. Simmer on medium until the liquid is reduced by half. Sprinkle in 1t white pepper and 1t coriander seed powder.
  9. Arrange the contents of the pan on top of the rice inside the rice cooker (see picture below). Sprinkle all the remaining liquid from the pan over the chicken in the rice cooker evenly.
  10. Set the rice cooker to cook a second time. When it returns to ‘keep warm’ mode again, your chicken rice will be done. You can make your claypot chicken rice well ahead of time and reheat with the ‘keep warm’ function of your rice cooker.

Notes CP Chicken Cook

  • Chinese sausages should be easy to find in any Chinatown. If you really hate liver, use 4 red sausages instead. If you can’t find any, use Chorizo as a substitute for the red sausages and use braunschweiger (i.e. liverwurst) for the brown ones. They will be different in size to the Chinese sausages, so adjust the quantity accordingly. For reference, a Chinese sausage is 6 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.
  • If you have one of those rice cookers with fuzzy logic and all kinds of settings, just use the simplest one- usually labelled as ‘quick cook’ or something similar.
  • If you don’t have a rice cooker, it will be very difficult to cook this in a metal pot so I suggest you don’t try. The rice gets burnt very easily.
  • If you like this recipe, have a look at my Oyakodon recipe, which is the Japanese version of chicken rice. 
 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Oyakodon – Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice


(serves 3)
Oyakodon a.k.a. Oyako Donburi a.ka.a Oyako Rice Bowl is a scrumptious mixture of tender simmered chicken pieces with scrambled eggs served on piping hot rice. The chicken is marinated in a semi-sweet sauce which when combined with the flavour from shiitake mushrooms and dashi broth results in the perfect sauce to go with rice. It’s no wonder Oyakodon is one of the most popular rice dishes in Japan. As it is an all-in-one complete meal, Oyakodon is quite a convenient dish to serve, it can be made in under an hour.  
 
Ingredients Oyakodon
  1. Chicken Thigh & Leg (2, boneless)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Eggs (4)
  4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (4)
  5. Cooked Japanese White Rice (3 bowls)
  6. Scallion (3 shoots)
  7. Ginger (1t)
  8. Dark Soya Sauce
  9. Mirin
  10. Hon Dashi
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Dried Seaweed (optional)

Preparation Part I

  1. Julienne the scallion into small 1/8 inch slices, keeping the white bits seperate from the green bits.
  2. If you didn’t buy your chicken legs deboned, you’ll need to debone them yourself. Seperate the skin from the meat as well. Trim off any large bits of fat from the meat and then cut the meat into bite sized chunks.
  3. In a bowl mix 4T soya sauce, 2T mirin, 1T sesame oil, 1t sugar, 1t pureed ginger and the white part of the scallion. Marinate the chicken pieces in this.
  4. Fry the skin in 1T of vegetable oil in a pan on low heat until the skin gets crispy. There is no need to move the skin save to flip it once.
  5. In the meanwhile dissolve 1t hon dashi pellets and 1t sugar into 1 cup of room temperature water. Soak your shiitake mushrooms in this.
  6. Peel and slice the onion into half rings.
  7. Rinse your rice and set it to cook in a rice cooker.
  8. At this stage the mushrooms would have softened a bit. Snip the stems and discard them. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch strips and continue to soak them in the same liquid.
  9. Remove the skin from the pan, leaving the oil in the pan.
  10. Let the chicken marinate while the rice gets cooked, for about thirty minutes.

You may do everything in part I ahead of time

Preparation Part II

  1. Beat 4 eggs in a bowl with 1T mirin. Leave them in the open to warm up.
  2. Pan fry the onion pieces in the pan with the chicken oil until they begin to soften.
  3. Turn up the heat. When the pan is hot, drain any remaining chicken marinade into the bowl with the mushroom.
  4. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and stir fry the chicken, ensuring all surfaces are browned. Turn the heat down when the meat begins to shrink. Next, add the mushroom slices, including all the liquid. Sprinkle liberally with pepper and continue cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half in volume.
  5. Push the chicken pieces to the side of the pan and pour the egg mix into the middle (which will still contain sauce). Turn off the heat after 30 seconds or until just half of the egg mixture begins to solidify. Mix everything in the pan one last time without smashing up the soft egg too much.
  6. Scoop your cooked rice straight from the rice cooker into 3 large bowls, filling them 3/4 of the way up. Top off each bowl with the contents of the pan, including all the sauce. The egg should continue to cook til it is slightly runny.
  7. Sprinkle on the green bits of the scallion immediately while everything is still steaming hot. You may also add some thin strips of dried seaweed (Nori) if you like.

Notes

  • Oyako means Parent and Child, a reference to main ingredients being Chicken and Egg .  
  • If you are going out to buy mirin for the first time, check out my What is Mirin? page first. If you really cannot get your hands on some mirin, you can also find out how to make a substitute there.
  • What if I can’t find any shiitake mushrooms? The flavour from the shiitake (She-tar-kay) mushrooms is important too. If you really need to, try substituting with dried Porcini or Morel. Don’t use fresh mushrooms as they will impart an unwanted bitter gamey taste.
  • What if I don’t know how to cook rice? Refer to my White Rice Page. It goes without sayinh, it’s best to use Japanese rice for this dish.
  • If you like, you can cut the chicken skin that has been fried crispy into little pieces and sprinkle it on with the scallion at the end. You should not however leave the skin on the chicken. Together, there is no way to cook the skin properly and yet leave the chicken meat tender. 
  • Please note – the egg in the photo is a bit over cooked, it should be a bit runnier. My bad. If you want your egg to have a nicer colour and texture, use 4 yolks with 3 egg whites instead.
 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Types of Ramen, Styles of Ramen


Types of Ramen: The Perfect RamenRamen is a noodle in soup dish which originally made its way from China into Japan when the country reopened its borders during the Meiji Restoration. The dish was refined and improved to such an extent over the past century that it has all but overshadowed its original Chinese cousins on the world stage. The world of Ramen is pretty complicated and this post will systematically categorize the different styles of Ramen that are common in Japan along with their various soup flavours, broth types, accompanying meats and toppings. It doesn’t teach you how to cook Ramen, but you’ll know how to order different types of Ramen at a restaurant or recognize the various types at the supermarket.

The word ‘Ra’ means pulled (into) while ‘Men’ means noodles. That’s how the noodles were made in the old days, a single lump of dough was manually stretched and folded in half dozens of times til it formed a bunch of thin noodles. The noodles are machine made today but the dough is still made from the same basic ingredients: flour, salt, normal water and an alkaline mineral water called kansui. It is the kansui which give Ramen noodles their unique bounce and taste and it also makes them yellow even though they contain no egg. As raw ramen noodles are alkaline and have some flour dusted on them, they have to be boiled separately. The noodles come in different thicknesses and lengths but essentially there is relatively little to differentiate one type of good noodle from another. If you really want to be scientific about it, thin noodles have a larger surface area to volume ratio are supposed to be eaten with the more subtle soups. Just remember, thick noodles go with thick soup.

Broths Ramen
Basic ramen broth does not have too many ingredients. It is usually made from pork bones, chicken bones, or a combination of the two. In certain recipes dashi, which is a consommé made from Bonito(dried salted tuna) flakes or Niboshi(dried salted anchovy) is simmered with Konbu(a kind of kelp) and blended into the meat broth to create a purer clear broth. Fresh seafood may be used occasionally in certain regional varieties, but usually not beef and probably never mutton.

Flavour Types
For Ramen, broth and flavour are distinct and separate. This is one of the unique things about Ramen. Think of it as: broth + flavouring = soup.  A Ramen is usually defined by its flavour which affects its final taste. There are 4 primary types of Ramen soup flavours: Shio, Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu.

  • Shio (She-Oh)
    means salt and this is traditionally the way Ramen soup is flavoured. All Western broths would be considered of the Shio type. The salt doesn’t affect the appearance of the broth and therefore Shio soup tends to light coloured and clear. Shio flavoured soup will tend to be a tad saltier than the other types.
  • Shoyu (Show-You)
    means soy sauce and this is next oldest flavour type. Instead of salt, a sauce made by fermenting soya beans is used to make the broth salty. This sauce is not your regular table soya sauce, but typically a special sauce with additional ingredients made according to a secret recipe. The broth for Shoyu is the only type that tends not to contain pork. Shoyu soup is also usually clear, but is dark coloured and sweeter than Shio soup.
  • Miso (Me-So)
    In more recent times, Miso paste has also been used to give Ramen broth its savoury taste. If Miso is used, it is immediately obvious as the soup will be opaque. Shio or Shoyu  flavoured soups merely accent the flavour of underlying broth, while miso leaves a fuller complex taste in the mouth since it also has a strong taste of its own.
  • Tonkotsu (Tong-Coats-Zoo)
    is technically not a true flavour since it is contains either salt or soy sauce. It is made from boiling ground up pork bones for 12-15 hours till all the collagen has dissolved into the stock as gelatine (details here). The result is a rich whitish soup that is distinct enough to consider Tonkotsu as a separate fourth flavour of Ramen. To be clear, the use of pork bones does not automatically mean the soup is of the Tonkotsu type. If the pork bones are boiled whole for a relatively shorter period, the result is just regular pork broth.

Meat IngredientsRamen Components
The most common type of meat served in Ramen is Chashu which is another type of food borrowed from China and subsequently modified over decades. It is basically a braised pork belly compressed into a cylinder, that is served in slices. What the pork is braised in differs from recipe to recipe but general ingredients include soya sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. In my humble opinion, the Chashu is the hardest part to get right in a Ramen. Chashu often goes hand in hand with Shoyu Ramen since the braising liquid can form part of the ‘shoyu’. Sometimes the pork belly is braised in its original shape but also sliced. You can refer to my own oven braised Chashu recipe here.

Another item that one finds more often than not in their Ramen is Ajitama, a soya sauce seasoned boiled egg with its yolk still runny. The Chashu braising liquid also comes in handy when seasoning these eggs. Ramen can also be served with fresh seafood, Kamaboko(a bouncy fish cake with a characteristic pink swirl) or with no meat at all. Unlike for soba or udon soup noodles, slices of beef are rarely served with Ramen, although new age Wagyu Ramen has been making an appearance lately.

Toppings and Condiments
Whilst the number of possible ingredients used for Ramen broth is quite limited, a large variety of ingredients are used as toppings to differentiate one Ramen from another. They more common toppings include Nori(seaweed paper), Wakame(rehydrated seaweed), Menma (preserved bamboo shoots), Negi(scallion), Kikurage(black fungus), juliened leek, sesame seeds, fried garlic, pickled plum/ginger and bean sprouts.

Regional Styles
The way Ramen is cooked has more or less evolved over the past century along geographical lines. Tonkotsu is the primary flavour of Kyushu Island in the South while Miso is generally associated with Hokkaido Island in the North. The central island of Honshu is home to the Shoyu flavour. Even within these demarcations, local variations have sprung up and are known by their city or prefecture of origin. Many of these variations feature local produce that is famous nationally. The following is a list of the main varieties (that I have come across anyway) of Ramen.

Tokyo Ramen

Tokyo style Shoyu Ramen

  • Tokyo style Ramen
    Tokyo style Ramen is the archetypical Shoyu flavoured Ramen. Many Ramen stalls originally served soba in a dashi soup and when the use of Shoyu was introduced, the practice of using dashi was retained. Today chicken stock and shoyu is mixed with dashi to produce the unique Tokyo style Ramen. Tokyo Ramen is usually served with Chashu, Kamaboko, half an Egg, and is topped with chopped leek and preserved bamboo shoots. In Yokohama, the port of Tokyo, pork is used instead of chicken for the broth resulting in the iekei sub-variation.
  • Asahikawa style Ramen
    This is a less well know shoyu type ramen that is distinguished by its combination of seafood and pork into an oily stock. Like all ramen from Hokkaido, it is designed with cold weather in mind. Asahikawa ramen uses roughly the same toppings as shoyu ramen from Tokyo (see above).
  • Hakodate style Ramen
    As all ramen was originally Shio flavoured, Shio ramen wasn’t invented in any particular place. However, when one mentions Shio ramen, a bowl of Hakodate style Ramen comes to mind immediately. Hakodate is where the tradition of making ramen soup flavoured with salt has remained unchanged even as new flavours and styles were introduced all over Japan. Hakodate style ramen is usually made with chicken broth resulting in a golden coloured soup. Very often Hakodate Ramen comes with chicken meatballs.
  • Hakata style Rame
    Tonkotsu type ramen originated on the warmer Southern island of Kyushu where most of Japan’s pig farming is done. Hakata is a district in Fukuoka City, the biggest city on Kyushu and the style of ramen from there is universally recognized as the standard version of tonkotsu. Hakata Ramen is usually topped with Chashu, egg, scallion, sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

    Hakata Ramen

    Hakata Style Tonkotsu Ramen

  • Kurume style Ramen
    A close cousin of Hakata Ramen is Kurume(Koo-Roo-Mare) Ramen. This is thought of as the original way Tonkotsu was made before it was modernized into the Hakata style. Its soup is similar but even richer in pork taste (from adding pig’s head, trotters etc. to the broth). The noodles of this variety come topped with fried pig lard bits and dried seaweed.
  • Kumamoto style Ramen
    Kumamoto prefecture is in the middle of Kyushu and its style of ramen is yet another variation of the Tonkotsu type. It is served with stewed pork belly, and a generous amount of fried garlic together with the oil the garlic was fried in. Toppings include pickled ginger and julienned leek.
  • Kagoshima style Ramen
    Kagoshima is a port at the Southern tip of Kyush. Here the soup is lighter as it is made from a mixture of pork tonkotsu and clear chicken broth. Kagoshima is home to Kurobuta pork, which makes their chashu all the more delicious. Other types of noodles, similar to those from ‘nearby’ Okinawa or Taiwan are sometimes served in place of regular ramen noodles.
  • Kitakata style Ramen
    This style of Ramen has a unique shoyu flavoured soup made from pork broth mixed with dashi made from dried anchovies. It hails from the city of Kitakata in Northern Honshu which purportedly has the highest concentration of Ramen shops in the world. Kitakata style Ramen features flat noodles and is typically served with sliced pork belly, leek and fish cake.

    Four Seas Building

    Nagasaki Shikairo, home of Champon

  • Nagasaki Champon
    Champon is a specialty of Nagasaki which was invented by a Chinese cook as a Meiji era equivalent of affordable fast food, for the Chinese students who were studying there. It is the most Chinois of all Ramen and today Champon is served at every restaurant in Nagasaki’s Chinatown. It is the only ramen from Kyushu which does not use a Tonkotsu soup. Unlike all other ramen, Champon uses special noodles that are cooked in the soup itself. This ramen is served with stir fried mix of pork, seafood and cabbage.
  • Sapporo style Ramen
    The city of Sapporo is in the Northern Island of Hokkaido and it is the bastion of Miso flavoured Ramen. The first use of miso in Ramen soup was by chef Omiya in Sapporo in the 1950s. Chicken or pork bones are used for the broth and when combined with red Miso paste makes for a rich soup, perfect for the cold weather up North. Hokkaido is home to the big vegetable and dairy farms of Japan as well as several fishing ports. Today the inclusion of the top natural produce of Hokkaido in the toppings (butter, corn, leek, roasted scallops) and soup (seafood) in Sapporo style ramen has become common practice.

    Wakayama Ramen

    Wakayama Ramen with Pork Ribs

  • Tokushima / Wakayama style Ramen
    Tokushima style Ramen is the most popular style of Ramen on Shikoku Island, the smallest of the 4 main islands. It uses a combination tonkutsu-shoyu soup which is deep brown in colour. This ramen is served with a raw egg instead of an almost-cooked one and also baraniku, a kind of stewed pork rib. A sub-variation of the Tokushima style is Wakayama style Ramen. Wakayama is on the main island of Honshu, just across the inland sea from Tokushima which is probably why Wakayama Ramen can be described as a Tokyo style Ramen served in Tokushima soup. For instance it will be served with a boiled runny-yolk egg instead of a raw one.

    Quality Ramen

    Quality Ramen Pack

Supermarket bought Ramen
In this final section I am going to discuss home-cooked Ramen. Quality ramen from the supermarket normally comes in rectangular 2 serving packs. If they are available, they will be found in the refrigerated (not frozen) section. The packing will generally indicate the flavour (e.g. tonkotsu on the yellow pack) of the ramen. If its a really good product, there will be a picture of a famous Ramen chef whose recipe the product is based on. The noodles are soft, sealed seperately within and the instructions will tell you to cook them separately from the soup. The soup will come in the form of a large pouch containing a condensed soup paste. You’ll need to procure all the meat ingredients and condiments yourself separately, resulting in a home-style ramen. If you don’t have any chashu lying around the house, try pan-fried luncheon meat (please do not quote me on this) and perhaps some seasoned runny yolk boiled eggs made according to my recipe. The easiest condiments to use are perhaps Japanese dehydrated vegetable/kelp, sesame seeds and fried garlic.

Soba stick ‘Ramen’

A second type of noodles is the off-the-shelf ramen-style soba stick noodles. Technically buckwheat soba noodles means this is not a true ramen but the soup pack that comes with with them is a concentrated form of a recognized ramen soup. These stick noodles also come in dual servings. The packaging will be long and typically indicate the regional style (Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki from left to right in photo) of the soup, often with a map to show where the style originates. It’s not as good as the quality ramen above but on the plus side, they keep for a long time and don’t need to be refrigerated.

If your pack of noodles is the type where you just boil a hard cake of noodles in water or fill a paper cup with boiling water and add some soup powder after the fact, this isn’t ramen at all; its only regular instant noodles. Besides being hard to the touch, the other tell-tale difference is these inferior noodles are always made with 1 serving. These instant noodles are dried by deep frying them in oil and the soup powder contains a heavy dose of MSG so this type of noodles are not too healthy. The packaging will neither give a ramen flavour nor style, but will be described by the meat (e.g. chicken) used to manufacture the soup powder.

 

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Mini Chicken Wellington


(serves 4)
This is the chicken version of Beef Wellington. Chicken needs to be fully cooked, so chicken wellington is flat and not cylindrical, and since fully cooked chicken will tend to be drier than medium rare beef, some chopped spinach is used instead of onion to boost moistness. Besides those 2 changes, this Chicken Wellington is pretty much the same as its beef cousin – meat covered with a generous amount of foie gras and mushrooms, baked inside a pastry shell.

Ingredients

  1. Chicken Fillet (500g)
  2. Mushrooms (150g)
  3. Spinach Leaves (100g = 1 box)
  4. Foie Gras Mousse (125g = 3/4 inch slab)
  5. Puff Pastry Sheets (2)
  6. Mascarpone (60g)
  7. Butter
  8. Basil
  9. Coriander Seed Powder
  10. Sherry

Preparation 

  1. Your chicken breast meat should preferably be of good quality(read as tender) and fresh. If not, and especially if you are using frozen chicken, you will need to brine the chicken first.
  2. In a bowl mix with 3T of olive oil, mix 1T sherry, 1t finely chopped basil, 1/2t coriander seed powder, 1/2t salt and 1/2t black pepper. If you brined your chicken, skip the salt. Cut the chicken breast into pieces that will fit the pastry shape of your choice and then marinate them in the oil.
  3. Stack the spinach and julienne the into short slices. Cut the mushrooms into small bits. With a knob of butter, fry the spinach and mushroom in a pan till the mushrooms have shrunk. Add the foie gras mousse, including the layer of fat that comes with it. Stir fry until the mousse melts.
  4. Pour the contents of the pan into a bowl and mix in 60g of mascarpone while it is still piping hot. Put the bowl in the fridge to cool. I will refer to this as the foie gras duxelles (althought this term is not 100% correct). 
  5. When the foie gras duxelles has cooled enough to solidify, take 2 frozen puff pastry sheets out of the freezer. Grease your baking tray with butter and preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF).
  6. When the puff pastry begins to soften, it is time to build your mini chicken wellingtons. If you know your way around puff pastry the triagular parcel method is preferred, you can make 4 individual parcels this way – one for each person. If not, the rectangular strudel style method is easier for beginners.
  7. Spoon a bed of foie gras duxelles onto the centre of the pastry, arrange the chicken pieces over this, and then cover the chicken with a second layer of the foie gras duxelles. Seal up the pastries and place them on the baking tray.
  8. For details and tips on using, folding and cooking puff pastry, refer to my savoury pies page
  9. Bake for about half an hour or until the pastry has puffed up nicely and is golden brown. After turning off the oven, allow your mini chicken wellingtons to cool for a bit in the oven with the oven door left open.

Notes

  • Because of the high temperatures used in this recipe, there is no point in using the more expensive types of foie gras, foie gras (50%) mousse is good enough. In fact, if you are feeling frugal, you can even use the canned pork liver pate from plumrose instead.
  • Using marscapone instead of cream helps makes your filling stiffer at room temperature, a very useful feature when working with pastry without a pie tray.
  • If you like this, you’ll probably appreciate my chiken pie recipe as well. 
 
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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in English, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Chicken Ginseng Soup (Samgyetang)


(serves 6)
Chicken Ginseng Soup, the deluxe version of chicken noodle soup, is one of my Korean favourites. It’s a sumptuous soup made from young chicken and ginseng, a root greatly prized in Asia for its health-promoting properties. The third ingredient is glutinous rice, which has the magical property of transforming the earthy tones of ginseng into a delectable flavour even while it adds body to the soup. Together they make a really tasty nutritious broth, especially for someone who is under the weather.   
 

cut open to reveal the glutinous rice within

Ingredients

  1. Young Chicken (i.e. small)
  2. Ginseng slices (1/4 cup)
  3. Raw Glutinous Rice (3/4 cup)
  4. Dried Red Dates (15)
  5. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  6. Chicken Stock Cubes (2)
  7. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

For the general theory of preparing East Asian soups, please refer to my Chinese Consommé post. If you are not familiar with glutinous rice, refer to my White Rice page.

  1. Rinse 3/4 cup of glutinous rice a few times.
  2. Open up a bulb of garlic and peel each clove after cutting off the tips. You should end up with a 12-15 whole cloves of garlic .
  3. Spoon the rinsed rice into the body cavity through the rear of the chicken. Cut a small opening in the chicken below the neck to allow free flow of water into the body cavity from the front.
  4. Place the chicken in a tall pot which is slightly larger than the chicken. This way, the entire chicken can be covered without using too much water.
  5. In a kettle, boil 2 litres of water. Pour this into the pot (with the chicken in it). After a minute drain away the water.
  6. Boil another 2 litres of water in the kettle and add this to the pot, followed by 2 chicken stock cubes, 1t salt and 1t coriander seed powder. Simmer, semi-covered, for 20 minutes.
  7. After the first simmer, add 15 dried red dates, the garlic cloves and 1/4 cup of ginseng chips. Simmer on low for a further hour, topping up with hot water as necessary. Keep the chicken totally submerged until the last 15 minutes.
  8. After the hour is up, leave the soup to cool for a few hours on the stove, with the cover on. When the soup has cooled, skim off some of the fat on the surface.
  9. When its time to serve the soup, bring the soup to a boil for 5 min. Some people like to add chopped spring onions at this stage, but i think its more for garnishing than taste. Depending on your tastes, you should need to add a further 1 to 2 t of salt before serving. Add this incrementally, checking the soup each time.
  10. The key ingredients (except the chicken) to make your soup.

Notes

  • Do not use any other type of rice. Glutinous rice is known for the integrity of its kernel and other types of white rice would simply disintegrate long before the soup is done. That being said, do not over boil the soup or even glutinous rice will break up. Besides, no other type of rice has the same complimentary chemical interaction with ginseng.
  • The timing for this recipe assumes the glutinous rice is inside the chicken. If you decide to use parts instead of a whole chicken, reduce the amount of rice to 1/2 a cup and add it to the pot 20 minutes after you the garlic, dates and ginseng instead. Rice cooks much faster outside the chicken. Be forewarned, the soup will also be more murky. 
  • Depending on the size of your chicken you can use more or less rice, but you don’t want to stuff the chicken too fully. Once the rice expands, access to the boiling soup may be impeded for the rice right in the center.
  • Just use American ginseng, it is cheaper. Forget the mumbo jumbo about the medicinal differences between Asian and American Ginseng. My recipe uses ginseng slices (again because it is cheaper) but you can use an equivalent amount of whole ginseng roots (pictured) if you like. In that case add the ginseng right at the beginning.
  • Why didn’t we just add all the ingredients at the beginning? Because the garlic and ginseng (slices) would become too mushy before the rice is cooked.
  • Why do we need to add the first lot of boiling water? Why do we need to let the soup cool before reboiling? You were supposed to refer to my Chinese Consommé post. 
 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Oriental, Poultry, Recipe, Soups

 

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Chicken Nasi Briyani


(serves 3)
Biryani originates from India and is one of the most popular rice dishes in Singapore and Malaysia, where it is known as known as Nasi Briyani. In all types of Briyani/Biryani, you cook meat curry with rice instead of cooking them seperately as in most curry dishes. In this version of Nasi Briyani, I employ the Chinese fried rice method to cook them together. This way the rice is moist on the outside, yet remains fluffy on the inside. The perfect comfort food.   
 

Ingredients

  1. Curry Chicken
  2. Raw Basmati Rice (1/2 cup)
  3. Coriander (1 cup, chopped)
  4. Ginger (2t, grated)
  5. Turmeric
  6. Coriander Seed Powder

Pre-Preparation (Curry) 

  1. You will first need to prepare the curry according to my Singapore Curry Chicken recipe. Do this ahead of time.
  2. Take note, you won’t need the whole amount of the curry cooked with that recipe unless you are making a double version. You will also need to make a few simple modifications to the recipe:
    1. To create more chili oil, add 3T of vegetable oil (you need an oil with a mild taste so use canola or sunflower seed oil) before you start boiling. 
    2. Skip the potatoes altogether.
  3. When the curry is done, skim 4T of chili oil from the top of your chicken curry and keep this in reserve.
  4. Extract and shred 2 chicken legs (with thighs) or their equivalent from the curry. Also measure 1.25 cups of curry (inclusive of onion bits) and pour this over the shredded chicken.

Pre-Preparation (Rice)

  1. You will also need to boil some turmeric flavoured rice, also ahead of time. If you don’t know how boil rice, refer to my White Rice Page.
  2. Start with half a cup of raw rice rice. You should use Basmati rice, and if you really can’t find some at least make sure you use a long grain variety –  if you don’t want the whole thing to turn to mush.
  3. After you have rinsed the rice and before you start cooking it, add 1/2 t of turmeric to the water. This makes the rice come out yellow.
  4. After the rice is cooked, allow it to cool in the open for an hour so it dries up. 

Preperation

  1. Julienne your coriander in two portions. Cut the bottom one third (i.e. the stem part) of the coriander first. Then do the rest (i.e. the leafy part) and keep them seperate.
  2. Remove the skin from a thumb sized piece of ginger and grate it. You should end up with 2t of grated ginger.
  3. In a large non-stick pan, heat up 3T of vegetable oil (again, not olive oil). Pan fry the coriander stems and grated ginger on high heat till there is a strong aroma of ginger coming from the pan.
  4. Add the (cooled) turmeric rice to the pan. Douse the lumpy rice with the chili oil you skimmed earlier and then break up the clumps by pressing down on them gently with a flat implement. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, keeping the heat on high, until you see a bit of the rice browning.
  5. Pour in the chicken and curry. Continue to stir-fry to make sure every grain of rice comes into contact with the curry. When the curry begins to dry up, add most of the leafy coriander, sprinke on 1/2 t of sugar and 1t of coriander seed powder and turn the heat down. Continue to fry for a further minute and then remove from the flame.
  6. Taste and then sprinkle on salt to your satisfaction. Plate your Nasi Briyani and then garnish with the remaining coriander.

Notes

  • This is the maximum amount you can cook at one go on a normal flat 12 inch pan. If you try to cook more, you won’t have enough of a cooking surface to dry the curry. If you want to do a double portion, use a paella pan, wok or something of similar size.
  • If you didn’t notice, the Indian version is Biryani, the Malay version is Briyani. Quirk of transliteration from a century ago.
  • Some recipes also use raisins and/or cashew nuts. You can consider adding these.
  • You can also use curry chicken from another source. The amount however will depend on the thickness of the curry sauce.
 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Roast Chicken Soup


(serves 6)
This is a wholesome soup that I invented after much experimenting to capture the meaty goodness of roast chicken. It’s got chunks of roasted chicken and pancetta, croutons of baked carrots and mushrooms. Trust me, you won’t be able to think of anything else but roast chicken while the soup is swirling around in your mouth. Kobi’s hearty roast chicken soup is a meal in itself, perfect for those winter months.   

Ingredients (Roast Chicken)

  1. Chicken Legs with Thigh (4)
  2. Diced Pancetta (80g)
  3. Rosemary 
  4. Thyme

Ingredients (Soup)

  1. Onion (2)
  2. Carrot (1)
  3. Brown Mushrooms (100g)
  4. Butter (50g)
  5. Milk (1 cup)
  6. Flour
  7. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  8. Brandy

Preparation 

  1. You have to first roast four chicken legs according to this recipe.
  2. While the chicken is in the oven, dice your onions into 1/2 inch pieces and then stir fry them in 50g of butter under very low heat until they caramelize. It should take about 25 minutes. Turn the heat off when the onions are, a deep shade of brown and leave the pan on the stove.
  3. When the chicken is cooked, place 3 legs into a pot with 4 cups of boiling water. Set to simmer and add a dissolved chicken stock cube. Set aside the fourth leg, you’ll be using it later. Pour the drippings (including the pancetta) into the frying pan with the onions.
  4. Degalze the baking tray with some of the boiling chicken stock, and after some light scraping, pour the mixture back into the chiken stock.  
  5. Dice your carrot into small cubes and then cut the mushrooms into pieces which are about 3x larger than the carrots (because they will shrink). Put the carrots and mushrooms into the baking tray and stir well with 2T olive oil. Bake this for 25 minutes in the oven at 175oC (350oF) .
  6. After the chiken has simmered for at least an hour, take the chicken legs out. Mash the meat of one leg with your hands till you get loose fibres of meat and put this back in the stock. Discard the other 2 boiled legs.
  7. Set the heat to medium for the frying pan with the onions. When the pan is hot, sprinkle in 2T of plain flour and reduce the heat to low. Stir fry for two minutes or so to cook the flour and then pour in 1 cup of milk 1/5 cup at a time, stirring all the time to prevent lumping. You should end up with a thick brown soup base.
  8. Stir in 2 ladles of the chick stock to the pan slowly to thin down the soup base even more. Pour the resulting mixture back into the soup pot. Boil for another 5 minutes.
  9. When its time to serve the soup, add 2T of brandy and a sprinkle of black pepper, and reboil. Shred the meat of the last chicken leg (the one that wasn’t boiled). Add the chicken meat only after you turn the heat off. Taste to see if you wish to add salt. Ladle the soup into serving dishes and sprinkle on the roasted carrots and mushrooms.  

Notes

  • For those of you interested in french cuisine terminology, flour fried in butter is called roux. If you add milk to roux, it becomes béchamel sauce. If you had added the chicken stock without the milk, it would have become a velouté sauce instead. Since we added both milk and chicken stock, I have no idea what that is called…cream soup I guess.
  • You can use leftover chicken, so make a double batch of roast chicken, that way you can eat your chicken and drink it too (at a later meal).
 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in A Kobi Original, English, Poultry, Recipe, Soups

 

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