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Braised Dried Abalone with Mushroom


(serves 6)
Dried Abalone is one of the most exquisite of all Chinese delicacies and is served without fail at any respectable banquet. In Chinese cuisine, dried foodstuff when cooked properly is often preferred to the fresh original and Dried Abalone is considered to be the King of Dried Seafood. That’s why people take the effort to cook Dried Abalone over up to a weeks time. Compared to fresh abalone, Dried Abalone has a more intense flavour as well as a nicer tender texture to the bite.    
 

Ingredients Braised Abalone

  1. Dried Abalone (6 of 30g each)
  2. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (6)
  3. Chicken Feet (12)
  4. Crushed Ginger (1T)
  5. Mini Chinese Cabbage (Bok Choy)
  6. Hon Dashi
  7. Chinese Wine
  8. Light Soya Sauce
  9. Oyster Sauce
  10. Brown sugar

Preparation 

  1. warning: this requires about a week of preparation.
  2. Soak the dried abalone in cold water. Keep in the fridge for 2 days changing the water every 12 hours or so. You can soak for a shorter period of time if you are using small abalone.
  3. The day after you put the abalone in the fridge start making the stock. Blanch the chicken feet in boiling water in a pot for a minute and then discard the water. Add 4 cups of fresh boiling water and bring to a simmer. Add 1T of Hon Dashi pellets. Simmer the stock for 20 minutesSnip This and allow to cool. Repeat the 20 minute simmer several times over a 24 hour period adding water as needed. If chicken feet make you squeamish or are hard to find, see my notes below for alternatives.
  4. After the long soak, you will notice you abalone have grown in size. Snip off the bits protruding from the round part of the abalone with scissors. It’s circled in red in the picture. This part contains the entrails of the abalone, so dig out any black bits you see as well. Then rinse well under running water.
  5. Place the abalone in a pot of cold water containing 1T of crushed ginger and 1T of Chinese wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. This step removes some of the abalone’s seafood odour. Allow to cool and then discard the water.
  6. Pour the chicken stock through a strainer into the pot with the abalone. Add 1T soya sauce, 1T oyster sauce and 2T Chinese wine. Simmer for 20 minutes and allow to cool with the cover on. Do this 4 to 5 times a day for the next 4 to 5 days. Add more water as needed to ensure the abalone are submerged the entire time or else the exposed part will become dark and hard. At first you will notice a strong smell of dried seafood but do not be alarmed, this will diminish to a nice aroma before you are done. The danger of sticking to the pot’s bottom is greatest when you begin reheating, so check often until you see bubbling.
  7. On the third day of simmering, soak 6 shiitake mushrooms in cold water with 1t of brown cane sugar for an hour. Snip off the stems and add the mushroom caps together with the mushroom soaking liquid to the pot. Continue simmering as before.
  8. When the abalone is done it will be bigger yet again as the gelatin from the stock will have bloated it further. The circular bottom of the abalone is the hardest part so your abalone is done if that part has softened as much as the surrounding flesh.  When you cut the abalone in half the core should be of the same colour as the rest of the abalone.
  9. After the abalone is nice and soft, remove all the solids and boil down the liquid until it thickens into a light sauce. It is normal to serve the abalone with some baby bok choy or broccoli so add this to the sauce as you are boiling it down if you wish.
  10. Hydrating Abalone

Notesabalone in simmer

  • The best quality dried abalone is from Japan, they are the ones that soften most easily with braising. The medium sized ones are from Yoshihama while the large ones are from Amidori. They also happen to be the most expensive. For home cooking the ones from Dalian China are a good compromise in terms of price and quality. Abalone from South Africa is the cheapest, but they don’t tend to get as soft.
  • The size of dried abalone is measured in ‘heads’. This is the number of abalone in a catty (600g) and ranges from 6-30. The smaller the number, the bigger the abalone. The ones I used are about 20 head.
  • Dried abalone must be aged to draw out the correct taste. This is done (by the wholesaler) by alternately sunning the abalone and storing it in a jar over a few years, after which it will darken and develop a white dusty look. Beware of clean looking dried abalone of a light colour if you are buying through the internet, as they are un-aged.
  • The golden rule of rehydration is to use cold water. Do not use hot water as it makes rehydrated foodstuff tough and rubbery
  • The number of times you need to simmer depends on the size of your abalone. This recipe assumes size 20 head abalone. Smaller ones require less simmering and larger ones more simmering.
  • The best pot to simmer abalone in is one made of clay, as pictured. They spread and keep heat well. You can still use a metal pot if you don’t have one. 
  • Chicken FeetChicken feet is ideal for this recipe because of the gelatine it produces when boiled. They have very little fat but a lot of skin and connective tissue. Gelatine is the secret to the nice texture of rehydrated abalone. Pork tail also give off gelatine, but unlike chicken the taste of pork does not blend that well with seafood so you need to use pork that is not ‘porky’. I’ve also tried oxtail, taste-wise its not a bad alternative but oxtail leaves a lot of floaty bits and oil which you have to remove.
  • I have found hon dashi to be the easiest way to flavour the stock properly but a more traditional alternative would be to use dried scallops or conpoy.
  • A common use for any left over abalone sauce is to toss it with egg noodles, like a pasta sauce.
  • Don’t use fresh mushrooms as they have the wrong flavour and they would disintegrate with so much boiling anyway.
  • Here are some reference pages to Shiitake Mushrooms, Chinese Wine and Hon Dashi.
 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in Main Courses, Oriental, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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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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Chinese Cooking Wine


When one mentions Chinese cooking wine, they are usually referring to a rice wine callled Shao Xing Hua Diao (To make life easy, I’ll just refer to it as Chinese wine in this post). Shao Xing is a reference to where the wine is traditionally made, much like ‘St. Emilion’. Hua Diao is a reference to a fermenting procedure using certain ingredients, akin to a term like ‘Riesling’. To be entirely accurate, Hua Diao derives from the ornate carvings on the clay containers that the folk would bury their wine in while it fermented, often for several years.

In China, there are two main types of liquor. Distilled liquor is called white liquor (i.e. spirits), while the fermented liquor is know as yellow liquor (i.e.wine). Shao Xing Hua Diao is one of the primary yellow liquors. It is light brown in colour, in a shade that is quite close to whiskey and has a typical alcoholic content of 16%, although I have come across ones that go as high as 19%. They come in bottles of all shapes and sizes as you can see from the three bottles I had lying around the house. Those that come in brown glass are of a better quality and they’re easily available from any kind of store selling Chinese foodstuffs.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Chinese wine is fermented from rice. When rice wine is mentioned, Japanese Sake, another type of wine that is fermented from rice immediately comes to mind. And in fact, it would be quite instructional to include a brief comparison of the two. I have no doubt they started out as similar wines sometime in perhaps the Tang dynasty. The Japanese over their centuries of isolation learned to refine the sake producing process, to arrive at the clear and delicate white liquor that we enjoy today. This has made sake less versatile in the cooking arena, although it is still useful for specific dishes or purposes.

In contrast, Chinese wine was left behind in the evolutionary race. It has retained a more rural and relatively unsophisticated character (to me anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of people who beg to differ). I’d describe Chinese wine more as a sugarless liqueur than an essential part of a bartenders’ inventory, which brings me to why Chinese wine is such a wonderful addition to the kitchen. The traditional alcoholic beverages used in Western cooking, be it wine, port, sherry or cognac are made from fruit, and as a result they all have sweet undertones. They are complimentary ingredients and they add their own distinctiveness to the dish that is being created. Chinese wine on the other hand is a supplementary ingredient, thanks to its earthy and slightly salty flavour. I myself do not know of any other wine that is salty. This allows it to blend into a dish, remaining unidentified by the untrained palate. This makes it unique. Don’t judge it by its raw taste. Its value-added when it comes to cooking is not immediately obvious. Chinese wine has been used in Chinese cooking for ages. Perhaps you have had the fortune of trying a Chinese dish with the word ‘drunken’ in its name, such as drunken chicken or drunken prawns? These contain a sizable amount of Chinese wine.

So how can you use Chinese wine? The closest Western analogue that comes to mind is sherry. Any part where a recipe says add a dash of sherry to a soup or sauce, you can substitute Chinese wine. It can also be used as part of marinades, and is especially useful for freshening up seafood. I have also used it to great effect as a deglaze over pan-fried meat, say like over the bacon in a carbonara sauce. A spot of Chinese wine might also go well with various cold dishes. Anyway, you’re not really going to see many recipes asking you to add Chinese wine. Even in my own posted recipes, I’ll plop in cognac, rum etc. to suit the general populace, even though I might be actually using Chinese wine myself. My point is, experiment with it… and maybe you’ll get to experience that little twinkle of delight when you guests just can’t put their finger on your ‘secret ingredient’.

If you liked this post on Chinese Cooking Wine, you may also be interested in my post on its sweet complimentary, Mirin.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Ingredients, Oriental

 

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