Har Lok combines 3 of my favourite ingredients – prawns, spicy fermented bean paste and lots lots lots of shallots! I have always loved mum’s har lok and she only makes it during extra special occasions because prawns are expensive. Certainly feeding a hungry family of five with prawns is a pretty expensive affair :) Now that I’m here in Melbourne and mum’s in Malaysia, I really really miss her special dish. So, I’ve decided to give it a try to cure the “I miss home” syndrome.
Since I love shallots very much, I have improvised mum’s recipe and added lots and lots of shallots to give that extra flavour and aroma. The prawns must be fresh so if you decide to cook this dish, buy the prawns on the same day so you get that fresh sweet crunch from the prawns when you bite into them. Keep the prawns whole with their shell on but remove their heads and trim the legs off. Keep the heads – you will know why (see methods below). Oh, and remember to devein them too. You don’t want to eat those icky bicky bits of black things :)
Har Lok is not har lok without it’s finger lickin’ sauce. The sauce is made up of 2 things – the bean paste and prawn heads. I used the spicy fermented bean paste in a jar which can be found at every Asian Grocer in China Town. If you prefer non spicy version, buy the original fermented bean paste, then add chilli sauce according to taste when preparing the sauce. Since my mum made it spicy, I followed her method because it certainly was super delicious – especially the leftover sauce which I can mop up with steamed rice and my fingers. Super finger lickin’ good!
Har Lok (Prawns in Spicy Fermented Bean Paste)
16 large prawns, heads and legs removed, washed and deveined (keep the heads)
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 shallots, roughly chopped
4 tbsp spicy fermented bean paste
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water (adjust according to the consistency you want)
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Pinch of salt
Cut red chilli or coriander, for garnish
1. Prepare the sauce by adding the bean paste, sugar, tomato sauce, oyster sauce into a bowl. I always like to taste little by little when I add the ingredients so I can adjust the taste according to my preference. Mix well and set aside.
2. Heat up 2 tbsp of peanut oil in a wok. Now, press and flatten the previously reserved prawn heads with a knife. When the oil is hot enough, throw in the prawn heads and fry until crisp. Why heads? I like the heads because they flavour the oil and leave a prawny aroma. Once the heads crisp up – remove them from the wok and set aside. Now, throw in the prawns and fry until 70% cooked. Remove the prawns and set aside.
3. Leave the remaining prawn-infused oil in the wok. If there’s not enough oil, top up with 1 tbsp of peanut oil. Heat up the oil again. Once it’s hot, add the shallots and fry for about 1 minute and then throw in the garlic. Fry till fragrant.
4. Now, add the sauce and mix well with the shallots and garlic. Depending on how much sauce you want, add in the water little by little until you’ve reached your desired consistency. If you’ve added too much water, you can add in a little bit of corn flour as that will help to thicken.
5. Add the prawns back into the sauce and ensure the prawns are mixed well into the sauce. Leave it to infuse for 1-2 minutes until the prawns are just cooked.
6. As the final touch, season with salt and taste. Once you’re happy with the taste and the prawns are cooked to perfection, dish them up onto a serving plate. Garnish with coriander or cut chilli.
7. Serve hot with warm steamed rice and fried prawn heads.
I’m a BIG HUGE fan of Chin Chin. Love the menu as place mats. Love the Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce on every table. Love the GoGo Bar down at the basement. Love the Asian-inspired tropical cocktails with lemongrass twigs. Love the brightly lit pink bunny ears. Hey, I even love the Thai language lessons (in the little girl’s room).
What’s not to love about Chin Chin? …. oh yes, and there’s Chin Chin’s brilliant and talented executive chef, Benjamin Cooper, who just released Chin Chin, the cookbook - featuring all recipes in the restaurant’s menu! By the way, have you seen him in Masterchef Australia Season 6 2014? He totally rocked the house down.
My family was in town last month, so, naturally, there were lots and lots of restaurant visits and food tours – indulging in fine foods that we don’t usually eat. My dad fell in love with Chin Chin’s bold and beautiful modernised classic Thai flavours when I introduced him to Chin Chin last year. This time round, it’s no surprise that dad wanted to come here again :)
We arrived at 11am (Chin Chin do not take bookings). We thought we were early, but surprise surprise, there was already a queue of hungry people waiting :)
…And that’s how the restaurant looks like at 11am … lots of space!
One of the things you must try in Chin Chin is their house-made non alcoholic cocktails. We had Coconut Crush, their special cocktail of the day, which had a mix of fresh tropical pineapple and coconut (of course) with ice crush. So refreshing.
Kingfish sashimi, Salt & Pepper Kingfish Wings $22, Coconut Crush (non alcoholic)
Then, we further smashed our taste buds with fresh Kingfish Sashimi that is boldly dressed with lime, chilli, coconut cream and thai basil leaves. Wonderfully flavoured and so delicate – just as I remembered it. Then, there’s the crispy Salt & Pepper Kingfish Wings served with Asian herb salad & Nuoc Cham – best eaten with fingers. Whilst they may be just wings, they are certainly juicy and delicious. Remember, finger licking is part of the table manners here :)
Chilli Salt Chicken Wings, Rendang Curry of Spice Crusted Braised Beef Brisket $24
The highlight dish of the day is Chin Chin’s new menu Rendang Curry of Spice Crusted Braised Beef Brisket. Coming from Malaysian background, rendang is very familiar to me. There are 2 types of rendang – wet and dry. To make the dry version, the curry is diligently stirred and cooked for hours until the coconut milk evaporated and the meat absorbs the spices. Whilst, in the wet version, the curry is cooked for shorter time and much of the coconut milk hasn’t evaporated. Chin Chin’s Rendang Curry has made my day! Not only was it rich in spices, the flavour was very intense and beautifully cooked.
Last to come was Caramelised Sticky Pork. My family hands were very quick when it comes to food. When the pork dish came, everyone just went for it before I had the chance to shoot. That sweet caramelisation around the crispy edges of the pork and the layers of pork meat was melt-in-mouth. This dish reminded me of Red Spice Road’s Pork belly with Apple Slaw which was simple to create at home and equally as delicious. Check out the recipe here
Palm Sugar Ice-cream Sundae with Honeycomb and Lime Syrup $15
Of course, you can’t complete a dinner without dessert, right? This Palm Sugar Ice-cream Sundae is not just a sweet dessert – each layer in the dessert cup unleash a certain flavour that will surely surprise your taste buds! The perfect ending to a perfect dinner.
If you are mad about Chin Chin like me, don’t forget to buy Chin Chin, the Book with recipes from Benjamin Cooper. I have tried some of the recipes at home and they are perfect for home cooks like you and me. Check some of the tried & tested recipes here - Lime Icy Poles, Chilli Salt Chicken Wings with Bandit Sauce, Chicken Dumplings with Vinegar Dressing, Spicy Corn & Coriander Fritters and Seared Scallops with sweet Fish Sauce .
Verdict : Need I say more? Chin Chin is one of the most-raved about restaurant. To sum it all up, I absolutely love love love Chin Chin - for bringing us a great mix of classic & modern Thai, Asian flavours. If you’ve not been there, you’ve haven’t tasted Melbourne yet.
To die for : Kingfish Sashimi, Rendang Curry of Spice Crusted Braised Beef Brisket
Price : $$$
Yummy Factor : +4
Noise Level : High
Tip : To avoid the queue, be at Chin Chin’s front door at 11am
125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
P: 03 8663 2000
Mon-Sun: Lunch, Dinner & Late
You may also like : Red Spice Road
It’s been less than a week since I arrived in Malaysia and I’m already spending all my time devouring Malaysia’s goodness. I know, I have to admit that I am a glutton – that’s the result of coming from a family & friend of foodies :)
The weather here is super hot and humid – definitely a big turn from the cold and chilly Melbourne weather! I had the best moments eating at many of Malaysia’s tai chow (Open air chinese stir-fry coffee shops) in shorts & slippers (LOL) – reminiscing sweet memories and taste from some of my favourite dishes like Sweet & Sour Pork (Gu Lou Yuk), Deep Fried Yam Basket (Fat Put Piu Hiong), Steamed Fish with Hot Chilli Paste (Cheong Ching Fei Zhou Yu), Hokkien Mee (Fu Kin Chow), Assam Laksa …. so many more that I can’t even list them down :)
After a string of delicious tai chow dishes, I was inspired to recreate my favourite dish – Sweet & Sour Pork aka Gu Lou Yuk. Sweet & Sour Pork is undoubtedly one of the most well known Cantonese dish, eaten and loved by anyone and everyone who has tried it. The success of sweet & sour pork lies in the crispy, light bite texture and sweet, sour sauce, which by the way, is not easy to copy and surely does not look and taste like those found in the Australia food courts!
Many recipes have been tried and tested but they don’t look and taste right … that is, until now. This recipe was adapted from Smoky Wok but I use the triple deep fry technique (used in Chicken Kara age frying method) to preserve crispiness of the batter (without being too oily) and to keep its pork’s tenderness. According to Smoky Wok, the essential ingredient is the plum sauce which gives the depth of sourness to this dish – and she’s absolutely right!
Try it! I’m sure your family will love it.
Sweet and Sour Pork ‘Gu Lou Yuk’ (adapted from Smoky Wok)
4 pcs pork tenderloin fillet, cut into bite-size cubes
1 large red onion, quartered
1/2 cucumber (with skin on), cubed
1/2 cup Potato flour
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
1 tsp corn flour
1 tsp custard powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
5 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp chilli sauce
4 tsp plum sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp sugar
1. Marinade the pork with marinade mixture. While mixing the marinade, massage the marinade gently into the pork meat. Set aside for 10-20 minutes.
2. Prepare the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed well. Bring to a boil. Remove and set aside.
3. To prepare the batter – pour the flour in a bowl and mix the salt into the flour. Mix well. With chopsticks, drop each marinated pork into the flour one piece at a time. Ensure that the pieces of pork are not stuck together in the flour. Remove the coated pork and stand in a tray or plate at room temperature for a few minutes. This allows the batter to stick to the pork and thus result in crispier, crunchier fried pork.
4. Heat a deep wok with enough vegetable oil until it’s very hot. To test, drop a small pinch of coated pork and if it bubbles, the temperature is just right. Drop each coated pork into the oil but be careful not to over crowd. Fry in batches. Deep fry the pork for 1 minute. Remove and rest on a cooling rack for 30 seconds. Repeat the same.
5. After the first round is completed. Place the fried pork one-by-one back into the hot oil and fry for another 30 seconds. Repeat the same for the rest.
6. For the last time, transfer back the fried pork into the hot oil again and fry for another 30 seconds. Remove and rest on the cooling rack for 2 minutes.
7. In another pan, heat about 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Saute the onion until fragrant, then fry the cucumber and pineapple until 70% cooked.
8. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil. Pour in the fried pork and mix well with the sauce.
9. Serve hot with warm jasmine rice.
These days, I have been so busy with my work that I just rely on my ‘One Pot Wonder’ dish to satisfy my family’s hunger pangs :) I know it sounds like some evil kitchen musings (like I’m torturing my family) but this ‘One Pot Wonder’ has saved my life during busy days. My definition of ‘One Pot Wonder’ is really just putting all ingredients in a pot and cook! Super duper easy, all thanks to Amy Beh’s recipe.
Easy Claypot Chicken Rice (adapted from Amy Beh’s Recipe)
4 pcs boneless chicken thigh, sliced into bite-size
300g basmati rice, washed
400ml water (or replace 1/3 measurement with chicken stock)
1 chinese sausage (lap cheong)
4 pcs dried chinese mushroom, soaked for 1 hour and sliced
2 pcs salted fish, chopped
2 1″ pc ginger
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
Spring onion, for garnish
Chilli sauce, to accompany
1 tbsp ginger juice
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (add more dark soy sauce if you want the rice to look darker)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp hot water
1. Marinade the chicken with all the marinade ingredients and leave to chill in refrigerator for about 1 hour.
2. Heat the claypot on medium heat with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Add 2 slices of ginger and fry until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to blend into the ginger aroma. Then add water (or chicken stock if you want a little more aroma). Cover and cook until water is almost absorbed, about 15 minutes.
3. Add the chicken with its marinade, chinese sausage and mushrooms. Drizzle 2 tbsp of drizzling sauce over the rice. Cover and cook under low heat for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Pour little by little some oil around the sides of the clay pot to get the crispy rice effect.
4. While waiting, fry the salted fish (make sure your doors and windows are open!) until crisp. Set aside.
5. Flake the cooked rice and check for done-ness. Cover lid and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat and top with fried salted fish and garnish with spring onion. Serve immediately.
I love Japanese food – super duper love. Not just because of the way they cook which exemplifies simple, superb flavours but also their carefully and artfully crafted presentation. Tell me, have you ever seen a not so pretty looking Japanese dish presented to you before? For me, not really. The discovery of sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki, kara age (to name a few) is one of the greatest food discovery ever enjoyed by most people and I just heart them.
Making tempura has always been a challenge for me because I just can’t seem to imitate the right texture of tempura – that crunchy, light and fluffy texture often found in specialist Japanese restaurants. Then I accidentally stumble on How to Make the Prefect Tempura by Tadashi Ono masterclass. Using the technique shared by Tadashi Ono, I can say that my tempura has seen a good daylight and the secret to light as feather tempura lies in a simple batter of flour, water, egg yolks and ice.
Seafood and Vegetable Tempura (adapted from Saveur)
8 fresh prawns, deveined & butterflied
4 fish fillet, sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, cut an’X’ on the surface of mushroom
1 1/2 cups flour (for dredging)
2 cups flour (for batter)
2 egg yolks
2 cups cold water
1 1/4 cups ice cubes
1/8 tsp hondashi (Ajinomoto brand)
3/4 cup water
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
3/4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup daikon, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and finely grated
(Matcha Green Tea Salt)
1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder
1. Prepare and cut the prawns, fish fillet and vegetables. Set aside.
2. Fill a deep skillet with enough oil to cover the ingredients when deep fry. Heat the oil over medium heat up to 180 celsius. If the oil is too hot, the batter will burn. If the oil is not hot enough, the batter will turn soggy and not crisp up. So, remember to watch the temperature of the oil at all times.
3. Place 1 1/2 cups of flour on a clean plate for dredging.
4. To prepare the batter, place 2 egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Then pour 2 cups of cold water and mix lightly with chopsticks into the egg yolks. Pour ice cubes into the batter to help reduce gluten development. Add 2 cups of flour. Using four chopsticks, point the tips into the batter and stab at the batter until the batter becomes lumpy. You should see some a mixture of barely mixed flour in the batter.
5. The oil should be hot enough by now. Start by lightly dredging the butterflied prawn in flour by holding its tail. This will help the batter stick to the prawns. Then quickly dip the prawn in the batter.
6. Just before frying, add a few drops of sesame oil into the oil. Slowly lay the prawns into the oil. Be sure not to crowd the skillet and maintain the temperature at 180 celsius.
7. While the prawns cook in the oil, dip your finger tips into the batter and drizzle some directly on top of the prawns. This process will make the tempura crispier and more fluffy. Once the prawn turns golden about 3 minutes each, remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain.
8. If you notice the small, golden batter bits floating in the skillet, use a slotted spoon to pick them up and set aside. These batter bits can be used to drizzle in the tentsuyu sauce or on the rice later.
9. Cook the rest of the ingredients with the same steps. Leave the vegetables 2 minutes longer or until cooked.
10. To make tentsuyu sauce, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until the sauce is steaming (when you see smoke coming out of the pan before boiling point). Remove and set aside.
11. To make matcha green tea salt, combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix and set aside.
12. Serve with steamed rice and dipping sauces.
Just like that, April is gone. I have been pretty quiet last month with very little activity with Burp! Blame it on the school holidays and visitors :) But it’s a good thing, we had such fabulous time with my family who came all the way from Malaysia and put up with us for 3 fantastic weeks. All of a sudden, our home was turned into a busy hotel with people coming and going – this beloved bustle is what the Chinese call as “yit lau” in cantonese.
I had the chance to show off my cooking skills and impressed my family…greatly. My mum and I exchanged cooking lessons and tips with each other :) which was something that I haven’t had a chance to do last time. It was truly enjoyable. That time all I care about was doing other things except cooking. But, now that I’m at it, I really missed having that mother-daughter bonding time.
I have a very soft spot for pork belly. My knees would go utterly weak at the sight of beautiful pork belly, not to mention, long braised melt-in-your-mouth pork belly. Pork belly is my no.1 favourite pork cut, followed by pork spare ribs. The best way to cook pork belly is to cook it long and slow through braising method. This cooking process not only leave the meat tender and flavoursome, it also renders the pork fat.
The outcome of this dish is so Ooh La La. This is a superb fall/winter dish and the broth is wonderful to go with steamed rice.
‘Dong Bo’ Stewed Pork (adapted from Chef and Sommelier)
800g pork belly
5 spring onions/scallions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tbsp dark soy sauce
8 tbsp chinese cooking wine
4 cups water
3 slices ginger
3 star anise
2 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp sugar
Kitchen twine (used to tie the pork belly)
1. Rinse the pork belly and dab dry with a clean kitchen towel. Then cut the belly into 5cm blocks.
2. Tie the pork belly with kitchen twine (top to bottom, left to right) and scald in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This helps to remove all the impurities of the pork. Scoop the pork belly out and set aside.
3. In a deep pan or wok, heat oil and fry sugar until golden brown or caramelised. Add water and bring to boil. Then add spring onions, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, dark soy sauce and 4 tbsp chinese cooking wine. Bring to boil again. Now, add the pork and turn the heat down to simmer for about 2 – 2.5 hours.
4. Turn the heat off and leave the pork belly to cool. After about 15 minutes, place the pork belly in a bowl and strain the remaining pork broth into the bowl. Wipe the wok clean and fill it with about 3-4 cups of water. Place the bowl with pork belly and broth in the wok on top of a steamer stand. Add the remaining 4 tbsp chinese cooking wine into the broth. Cover with lid and steam for 1 hour.
5. Remove from steamer. Discard the kitchen twines and place the pork and broth in a deep bowl. Serve with steamed rice.
I'm Jo, a working mom in Melbourne with hubby, lil' one and pup. Love food, photography & travel. When it comes to food, I love experimenting with simple recipes that bring back my childhood memories and ignite the classic flavours that I have loved. I hope you enjoy Burp! as much as I love sharing ;)
$$$$ Fine dining
$$ Moderate price
$ Cheap eats
+5 Culinary Legend
+4 Tickle my senses
+3 Seems fine, but not exciting
+2 Some good, some bad
+1 Don't bother