Lime Steamed Fish

Known as pla nerng manao or fish steamed with lime in Thai, this is one of my favourite Thai dishes. Perhaps it won’t surprise you that if you’ve tried this in Bangkok, you’re going to be disappointed with the Singaporean version.

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Look at that nice chunky fish. Beautiful texture. The sauce is made from lime juice and garlic. The best part – heated over glowing charcoal chips. Went really well with whisky I got at Changi Airport.

Gentleman Jack

© Chan Joon Yee

宫保鸡丁 (gong bao ji ding)

This is a very popular Sichuan dish that been borrowed by Thai cooks. It’s original name is 宫保鸡丁 (gong bao ji ding). In Thailand, it’s simply called chicken fried with cashew nuts. A rather long “gai pad met ma muang him ma pan”. Sometimes shortened as “gai pad met ma muang”.

Like many popular dishes, there are many versions of it around the world. You can find it in a restaurant menu. You can also find it at an economical rice stall. It’s difficult to tell which version is most authentic. Just check out Youtube and you’ll see dozens of different ways of preparing it.

I guess it probably doesn’t matter who is more authentic. I’m sure the Thai version is flavoured with fish sauce. The important question to ask is whether a particular style suits your taste buds. That said, this is Dr Chan’s 宫保鸡丁.

First, I would cut my chicken fillet into “cubes” and season them with soy sauce, hua diao wine and olive oil. Then, I microwave them at high heat for 10 minutes till they are pretty dry and slightly brown. Some folks are dead against microwave (they deep fry instead), but this is basically a very oily dish and I want to cut down the use of fat as much as possible.

While the chicken is cooking, I would fry my dried chilli. Fry it until the dried chilli is a little burnt and the oil turns red.

Some people skip this (red peppercorn), but I find it indispensable in 宫保鸡丁. In a metal spoon, I would fry this in chilli oil until pungent fumes rise from the pot. I would then discard them. I just need the fragrance in the oil. The peppercorns are not pleasant to chew, so I don’t mix them up with the chicken.

The microwaved chicken is now fried in the chilli oil. Once the chicken has taken up some of that chilli oil, I would pour in some cashew nuts. I actually prefer a whiter variety of cashew nuts, it they weren’t available on that day.

There’s not much of a gravy in 宫保鸡丁, but this final seasoning is important. It contains sugar, black vinegar, soy sauce, water and starch.

Pour in the seasoning, stir well and the 宫保鸡丁 is ready to be served. I’ve made quite a lot of modifications to recipes I’ve come across, but what matters most is that the dish must be tasty and not too unhealthy.

© Chan Joon Yee

Hakka Yong Tau Foo

Those of you addicted to Ampang yong tau foo may want to try this dish. I’ve been eating yong tau foo all my life, but this style remains my favourite.

First, you would need a good bunch of kangkong. I got this for only 50 cents.

Next, you wash and cut up the kangkong. Boil a small pot of water and immerse the cut kangkong to blanch for 3 minutes. Do not cook for too long or the kangkong stems will lose their crispiness.

Now for the yong tau foo. Most people fry it, but I’m a bit healthier. I dip the pieces of yong tau foo in olive oil and then microwave for 5 minutes at high heat.

The excess oil separates easily from the microwaved yong tau foo. It tastes a bit different from deep-fried yong tau foo, but it’s just as crisp. Place the cooked yong tau foo on top of the blanched kangkong.

Here is the decisive factor – the gravy. It contains oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, hua diao wine, sesame oil, starch and of course, water. I would heat up the excess oil from the microwaved yong tau foo in a pot, fry some minced garlic in it. When everything is hot and fuming, my gravy mix goes in. Lower the flame, boil it up, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.

The final step. Pour the gravy over the yong tau foo and kangkong. Serve immediately.

It really tastes as good as it looks. Try it yourself.

© Chan Joon Yee