Category Archives: Recipes – Bread & Breakfast

Authentic Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich recipe


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On our recent trip to Melbourne, Australia, we came across many bakeries and stores selling traditional Vietnamese sandwiches – Bánh Mì. These are the result of French and Vietnamese cuisines coming together, and boy, what a glorious effort.

Bánh mì sandwiches are different to the normal western sandwiches. The bread is crunchy on the outside and pillowy inside, serving as a light encasement for the delicious fillings inside. More on that later.

While watching our sandwiches being made, I duly noted what was included – the ingredients all play a part in achieving the balance of sweet, sour, savoury, spicy, umami, warm, cold, softness and crunch. That’s a lot achieved in one sandwich.

Here are the list of ingredients for you to create your very own bánh mì!

    • Bread – choose a light bread with pillowy centre and light crusty crumb. (J’s wanted to make sure I mention not to get bread that is so crunchy that it scrapes the roof of your mouth. Coz that will hurt. Noted, darling 😊) Baguettes or Ficelle from Paneton French Bakery would be my choice (in New Zealand).
    • Mayo – adds a creamy flavour to the sandwich.
    • Pate – this is essential to any good Bánh Mì, giving it the umami flavour.
    • Cucumber – Cucumber adds freshness and crunch, juxtaposing the other soft elements of the sandwich. Slice them lengthwise for even layering.
    • Herbs – for freshness and an earthiness, coriander leaves and sliced spring onions are added. I would also suggest Thai basil as well, if you wish.

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    • Pickles – this is a must! Easy to make: 1:1.5 ratio of white or apple cider vinegar to caster sugar to fill to just over half of a glass jar. Warm jar and sugar slightly in microwave to dissolve the sugar. While it is cooling, sprinkle a bit of salt over thin batons of carrots/daikon/rings of onions. Massage and squeeze the carrots the diakon (no need for the onions) to get rid of their juices. Pat dry and add to the cooled jar of pickling liquid. Ready to use in just an hour.

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  • Protein – you have lots of choices here: vietnamese ham, lemongrass pork or beef, grilled pork, chinese BBQ pork, chinese roast pork or even grilled tofu. Champagne ham works too if there is nothing else!

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  • Sauce – You can add squirts of hoisin sauce or Maggi Seasoning for extra flavour. For me, a good grind of black pepper was enough.
  • Fresh Red Chillies – a spicy element is a must and thinly sliced red chillies are commonly added to taste.
  • Fried shallots for extra crunch.
  • Add more meat if you wish.
  • Close the sandwich and enjoy!

Perfect scrambled eggs


Eggs on toast. Simple. Breakfast.

As a child, I very much disliked scrambled eggs. I think I decided this in association with the airplane breakfast smells, which was very disagreeable with my stomach. So attached was I to this memory, I decidedly refused to cook or order it throughout the years. I didn’t see a need to change.
In 2016 I stumbled upon a new way – THE Gordon Ramsay video – to make it and was surprised at how wrong that memory was! Now it is a fav at home and an easy weekend breakfast. Scrambled eggs, where have you been all my life! Thank you Gordon Ramsay!

Ingredients (for 2 hungry adults)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 25g cold butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • freshly ground pepper and flaky sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • 4 slices wholegrain or sourdough bread, toasted, to serve

Directions

  1. Break the eggs into a cold, heavy-based pan, place on the lowest heat possible, and add the butter. Using a spatula, stir the eggs continually to combine the yolks with the whites.
  2. The eggs will take about 4-5 minutes to set and scramble – it should still be soft and quite lumpy. As the eggs set, keep moving the pan off and back on the heat to make sure the eggs don’t overcook.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
  4. Add the crème fraîche and season the eggs at the last minute, then add the chives (optional). Put the toasts on warm plates, pile the softly scrambled eggs on top and serve immediately.

The key to creamy, fresh-smelling eggs is:

  • Use a heavy based pot
  • Stir eggs gently instead of whisking
  • Cook at low heat with constant stiring
  • Season only at the end

You can stop reading here if all you were looking for is the scrambled eggs recipe. However, I am going to share some thoughts/reflections about this photo above and the year 2016.

Hand thrown ceramics plates bowls

In 2016, I had a go at pottery and made these plates. The process was like nothing else. From a clump of clay to something functional. All in your hands. I was incredulous at the calmness and out-of-this-world happiness I experienced from such a hands-on activity.

The amazing thing about it was, I could decide what to do with it, whether it is to be a plate, a bowl or a mug. It didn’t matter that it didn’t look perfect, what mattered was the learning and relieving myself of the need for it to be perfect, because that stopped me from enjoying the process.

Hand thrown ceramics

Sometimes you can’t get too comfortable. Life will be boring without constant challenges, which are all learning opportunities. I was forced to get very uncomfortable this year. It was hard with the unknown, but my faith carried me through. I accepted the learnings and faced the challenges head on, knowing that God’s grace is enough, it is always more than I ever need.

I also believed in myself and that is sometimes the biggest help you can get when facing difficult situations.

Give yourself a chance.

Learn new things.

Face your fears.

You will thank yourself for it.

Welcome, 2017!

#learnings
#2016
#2017
#fatherslove

Hand thrown ceramics plates bowls

Soft Yoghurt Bread


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If you want to have at least one little piece from this loaf, take my advice and make a double batch. This is because after making a single batch, about 11 small rounds, half of it disappeared within 20 minutes of it coming out of the oven. Two hungry hippos came home and gobbled them up while I was busy cooking dinner!
They said it was delish and there was a dash this morning to breakfast for the rest of the loaf.

Crunchy outside and soft within, no wonder we almost had to fight for the last piece 😉

Ingredients
100g greek yogurt
60g milk, warmed
5g yeast (1 tsp)
30g egg (about half an egg)
30g oil
275g bread (high grade) flour
15g sugar
3g salt (1/2 tsp)

Directions
1. Place yeast in the warmed milk for 5 minutes.
2. Place milk and yeast into bowl of bread machine and add yoghurt, egg and oil.
3. Add dry ingredients.
4. Mix in bread machine in ‘dough’ mode for 20 minutes.
5. Tip the dough into a slightly greased larger bowl. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or cling-wrap and leave it to proof in a warm place till double its size (about 1 hour).
6. When doubled in size, punch down the dough to release the air.
7. On a floured board, divide the dough into small portions of about 50g. Roll the dough out into a rectangle. Roll the dough up from the bottom edge. Flatten the dough lightly. Roll the dough into thirds, like a snail. Shape each portion into a smooth ball and place them into a loaf pan.

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8. Cover the loaf pan with a cling wrap and allow the dough to go for a second proofing until double its size again. I sometimes leave it in a switched-off oven which had been heated to 50C, for about 20 minutes.
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9. Take the loaf pan out and turn the oven temperature up to 170-180C.

10. Egg wash the top of the buns.

11. Bake for 20 minutes until the top turns golden brown.

12. Remove bread from loaf pan to cool completely.

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See how soft and pillowy they are – simply gorgeous.

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Naan bread


Homemade naan bread
Homemade naan bread with chicken massaman curry in the background

J loves bread. Baguettes. Focaccia. Pizza bread. Chinese buns. Chinese pancake wraps. Naan bread is one of her favourite among this lot.
When she was younger, her tolerance to spices are not that great so when we went for Indian meals she would often just eat the bread and not the meat and the sauce, no matter now mild they were.

Seems though with age this is slowly changing and last week she managed to eat most of the sauce of a not-so-mild lamb madras! It was quite hilarious though as she was fanning herself and drinking copious amount of water while eating.

Hopefully she will be pleasantly surprised tonight when she discovers what is for dinner.

Ingredients:
1 cup warm milk
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp of active dry yeast
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp of oil
6 cups of sifted all purpose (plain) flour
butter

Directions:
Pour warm milk and water into a large bowl. Add yeast, sugar, salt, egg, 1 Tbsp of the oil and mix together.

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Add sifted flour and quickly work the mixture into a dough. The dough should be very soft and quite sticky. I used a fork to bring everything together before kneading with oiled hands. Pat remaining oil over the dough and cover the bowl with a loose lid.

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Place the bowl in a warm place until the dough has doubled its size (40 – 60 minutes).
Preheat the oven at 240c and place the baking sheets inside the oven while the oven is heating.

(The yeast was a little bit too excited!)
(The yeast was a little bit too excited!)

Once the dough is ready, turn it over to a floured surface and shape small ball-sized doughs out of it. You may find the dough is very soft and almost fall through your fingers – it is fine! Just be gentle.
The trick is to make sure your hands are dusted with flour frequently. I also use disposable gloves as a barrier between the soft dough and my warm hands. To avoid the dough from sticking to your fingers, frequently flour them and work faster. Let the balls rest for about 15 minutes.

Round naan bread dough
Round naan bread dough

Once the dough has rested and risen, place one on the floured board and push down the centre of the dough, taking care not to flatten it too much. Gently pick it up and literally toss it from your left hand to your right, making sure each time it lands on the palm of your hand.

Round naan bead dough risen
Round naan bead dough risen

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This tossing action will create a nice longish triangular or oval-shaped dough.
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You can spread some butter or even garlic on top of the flat dough and they are ready to cook. Taking care when opening the oven door as it is very hot, take the sheets out and quickly but gently place the dough on sheets. Bake for about 6 minutes and remove when the top has slightly golden-brown spots. Continue with the remaining dough balls.

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Stack and cover with a clean tea towel, they are ready to be devoured with any curry you fancy. Or, like me, the plumpest one was picked, torn into and chewed away while typing this post.

Enjoy!

Chinese Barbecued Pork and Buns (Char Siu Bao/叉烧包)


It went like this:

You were about 13 and one afternoon your friends or cousins came over to play, and no one wanted the party to end. What to do for dinner, your parents wondered.

There were no ”chinese take away” as such where you can order sweet and sour pork or beef with vegetables in black bean sauce with a side of fries (no this isn’t a typo, I have seen fries ordered instead of rice!) Your parents would have some idea of what to have for dinner, but needed some extra dishes to feed everyone.

This was when you were sent to the nearest “Barbeque shop” to pick up some char siu, roasted pork, roasted goose (in Hong Kong goose is much preferred over duck) or soy sauce chicken.

We grew up knowing which cuts our family like the most and discovered how to ask for it; that we absolutely cannot forget asking for the sauce that went with the char siu; that the spring onion/ ginger/ oil sauce was going to go really fast as it is addictive and simply the best condiment to chicken so we must must must ask for more.

We watched in amazement when the See Fu (master – we call the staff that was responsible for getting our order ready as a sign of respect) sliced off exactly the amount we ordered ($10 char siu please!) and threw it onto the round-shaped, well-used chopping board. He would raise the cleaver and masterfully slice the pork into pieces and then place onto waxy paper, with a ladle of sauce drizzled on top with a flourish. He would bring the paper up and scrunch the top up so that the sauce will stay inside the parcel and chug it into a bag for us to take away. Later as life became more modernized, they moved on from the waxy paper to styrofoam, which is far worse from an environmental perspective.

As fast as we could we would take the lovely warm meats home, our little legs taking us closer and closer to our wonderful meal.

Mum would have everything timed perfectly for the arrival of the prized “take away” – steaming hot rice ready to go with the glistening red, moist and juicy char siu. I still vividly recall opening these parcels, the smell of the waxy paper and the smoky smell of the roasted char siu – this would be one of the scents of my childhood.

No one in Hong Kong ever made char siu at home. Why would you when you have access to perfectly cooked char siu within 5 minutes of leaving your housing estate? Char siu, which literally translates to “fork burn” is made by roasting marinated pork over a fire. It is a long process as it requires many turns to achieve the consistent caramelisation. No one would bother.

While living aboard you become very reminiscent of traditional food, or food that you grew up with. Char siu is on the top of my list and here is my version. I choose pork scotch fillet because I want meat that is tender, juicy yet not as fatty. I use a mixture of honey, hoisin sauce and char siu sauce for the marinade. I would use maltose instead of honey, if I had any left in my pantry from the last maltose lollipop snack party. I stick them in first the microwave and then the oven, to ensure it is cooked in time (I am not known for my patience!).

Lastly, I have included my mother-in-law’s bun recipe here to make yet another prized chinese Yum Char dish – Char Siu Bao. This is my daughter’s latest favourite food, I hope you will enjoy it as much as she does.

Chinese BBQ Pork Recipe (Char Siu/蜜汁叉烧)

Ingredients:
1 kg pork scotch fillet (cut into 4 pieces)

Marinade:
2 tablespoons maltose or honey
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons char siu sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method:
1. Marinade the pork pieces with the sauce overnight. Keep in the fridge.
2. The next day, heat the oven to 200 degree C.
3. Place the pork pieces into a microwave safe dish and cook it on medium high for 4 minutes.
4. Remove from microwave and place on a tin foil and baking paper-lined baking tray.
5. Roast the char siu for 10 minutes.
6. Reduce the temperature to 180 degree C and continue to roast it for another 20 minutes.
7. Brush the char siu with the remaining char siu sauce every 10 minutes until the char siu are perfectly golden.
8. Rest for 10 minutes.
9. Slice the char siu into bite-size pieces, drizzle the remaining char siu sauce over and serve immediately with rice.

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Bun) Recipe
Makes 20 buns

Ingredients for dough:
260g water
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
250g high gluten flour
250g low gluten flour
1 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp yeast

Fillings:

250g char siu, diced

Method:
1. Place bun ingredients in the order in a large mixing bowl bring together flour mixture. Alternatively you can use a bread machine, set on the dough setting and knead it for 20 minutes.
2. Divide dough into 20 pieces and roll into small balls.


3. Flatten with your hands to make a circle. Then place a heap teaspoon of filling in the middle, wrap and pleat the dough to seal. Place it on a square parchment paper, seal side up.

4. Let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm oven (that had been turned to 50 degree C before, and turned off).

5. Doubled in size after 30 minutes. Resting makes a fluffier bun.

6. Arrange buns into a steamer, leave space in between buns. Moisten the surface of the buns by spraying a water mist. Add a few drops of vinegar into the steaming water (this produces a whiter bun, optional) and steam in a preheated steamer on high heat for 15 minutes. Remove buns from steamer and cool on rack to prevent the buns going soggy.

The little one in the middle is J’s mini one with no fillings. She likes eating the buns plain sometimes.