Sunday 10 June 2012

Uncle Lau's Teochew Recipes

When Epigram Books contacted me asking whether I wanted to review a copy of their Heritage cookbooks, I jumped at the chance; it's very rare to see a Teochew cookbook available here. I love Teochew food, but have a very limited knowledge of it, and there aren't many (if any?) restaurants in London serving this kind of food.

Teochew people are native to the Guangdong province of China, but as far as I know most Teochew people (at least, the cuisine) is mostly found in Singapore and Malaysia. Teochew cuisine, in my limited experience, involves a lot of braised dishes and judging by this cookbook, is heavy on seafood. I recognised a lot of dishes listed, such as preserved radish omelette, but there are also a lot of intriguing dishes that I can't wait to make, like fish bladder soup. Yup, I have the dried bladders, all ready for a day I'm feeling brave.

The book is very simply laid out. If you're someone who likes a lot of glossy, heavily styled pictures of dishes then it is not really for you, as it has none. Instead, all the recipes are simply laid out within a clean, simple border. The introduction is a sweet story about the author's father, a self-taught cook, who the recipes are from. A lot of the ingredients from the book aren't available in normal supermarkets, but have a wander around the Asian supermarkets or a browse online and you're likely to find what you want.

I wanted to try the most straightforward of the recipes, so I went for Braised Pork Spare Ribs - come on, of course it was going to be pork! - or, Ang Sio Bak Kut. I had to do a little butchery to get the ribs down to the size I needed them, but otherwise it was very easy indeed. The ribs, on the bone were flavoursome and tender. The star of the show might have been the mushrooms which soaked up all the porky, cinnamon star anise flavour to fill your mouth with deliciousness and my friends I had round raved about them.

Ang Sio Bak Kut

Serves 6 with other dishes

1.5 kg pork spare ribs, cut into 3 - 4cm pieces - I left these a little larger; use a cleaver or a brute force 1/2 tsp salt   1.5 tbsp dark soy 
75ml Shaoxing rice wine 
20gr ginger 
4 - 6 stalks of spring onion, cut into 6cm lengths 
10 - 12 dried shiitake mushrooms - soak in hot water to soften and remove the stems 
4 tbsp light soy sauce 
1 - 2 star anise 
3cm stick of cinnamon (I used cassia bark) 
1 dried mandarin peel 
1.5 tsp rock sugar 
1 sprig coriander to garnish (I went for spring onion)

Place the spare ribs in a bowl and rub with the salt and the dark soy sauce. Transfer to a heavy bottomed casserole and pour in 100ml water and the Shaoxing rice wine. Add the ginger and spring onoins. Bring to a boil and then reduce the hear, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking, turn the ribs over.

Squeeze the excess water from the mushrooms and add to the pot with 1/2 cup of the mushroom water. Add the light soy sauce, the cinnamon, star anise, mandarin peel and rock sugar. You can use a muslin bag for this - instead I had my guests look out for it in case they munched on it. Simmer for another hour, uncovered; add more water if it's looking dry. The sauce should have a syrupy consistency when it is done. If the sauce is too thick, add water.

Taste, adjust seasoning and garnish.

I also made Stir-Fried Vegetarian Stew (Chap Chye) but I ballsed that up quite royally by misreading the recipe and then running out of time. Instead of a soupy dish made with glass noodles, I ended up with a stir-fried rice vermicelli. It was still good though, despite my misunderstanding.

If I have any gripes about the book, I found that the page numbers being in the top left hand corner of the page difficult to flick through and find what I wanted easily. There aren't any suggestions on how many each dish might serve, but from what I can gather it seems to be 6, with other dishes as is typical of Chinese meals. Otherwise, I loved the book.

I can't find it for sale anywhere online but you can contact Epigram Books (based in Singapore) here if you want a copy.


Helen said...

Ace. Looks like I might be contacting them for a copy. FISH. BLADDERS. Good luck with that mate. You can invite me round to try them if you like...not when I'm hungover though *boke*

Kavey said...

I'd never heard of Teochew cuisine till I read your post, though perhaps I might have encountered the odd dish in London, I don't know.
The rib recipe sounds delish.

Mr Noodles said...

Teochew (as pronounced by the Teochew themselves) and Chiu Chow (how Teochew is pronounced in Cantonese) are one and the same. There are many Chiu Chow/Teochew eateries in Hong Kong although not to the same extent as in Singapore/Malaysia.

Sadly I can't think of anywhere that specialises in this wonderful cuisine in London, although I've seen the odd dish creep onto the menu in Malaysian/Singaporean and Cantonese joints.

Anonymous said...

Try the fish bladders, if done properly with a good quality piece, there is no fishness at all. It is sort of like a sponge which soaks up the soup.

charlene said...

I love regular chap chye but I think you might be on to something with the chap chye/ fried beehoon cross (: looks deelish

Shu Han said...

I think I told you before, I came across this series of books in Singapore. I missed having photos, but loved the clean layout and covers. Borrowed the eurasian one, but haven't got down to trying any of the recipes. Teo chew food is just one of the many many facets of chinese food to be explored,beyond the cantonese one we're all more familiar with, a lot more braised/steamed dishes. Heh saw that chay chye tweet too, and liek I said you could call it chap chye your style, it looks yum anyway.

(Sorry didn't get to talk yesterday, hope you enjoyed the food!)

The Grubworm said...

Another interesting regional Chinese cuisine to try out, and intriguing too with the empahasis on radish. It is a shame that there isn't a place specialising in this sort f food in London. Still, the book sounds good.

if the ribs are as good as they sound (and pretty stright forward to prepare too) then it will be a book i'll be on the look out for.

Hollow Legs said...

helen - yeah mans. You'll have to help me eat it! Kavey - yes, it is relatively unknown I think.

Mr Noodles - yes, my family always called it Chiu Chow. I've seen a couple of dishes, but I want a fully Teochew restaurant, dammit!

Anon - that sounds good. I will be brave.

charlene - it was definitely a mish mash!

Shu Han - Looking forward to seeing any Eurasian recipes you try. Lovely to briefly meet you, sorry I couldn't stick around to chat - I had a very early start the next day!

Grubworm - yes, do look out for the book as if you can't get restaurant food then you might as well make it yourself. The ribs were indeed delicious.

London Corporate Cooking said...

I have to confess I have been a wee ignorant about Teochew food until I have read your blog. I have to say it looks scrummy. But a cookbook without pictures is rather sad. People would fancy something to compare what they have whirled up to. I know I certainly would.

Anonymous said...

Ooh I have all the ingredients apart from the mandarin peel....... plans trip to chinese supermarket :~0