A BALCONY SORIEE
During the summer Pop-up Dinners Istanbul has a down time and I might do 1 dinner or a cooking class. But mostly I catch up with visitors and friends and have, what I term as a balcony soiree. It began on the balcony some years back, but I've now got a large cupboard there to store plates etc. for the cookery books I'm writing - mainly the Singapore and Malay upcoming ones. So, the balcony soiree has moved indoors. A few friends over and I get to experiment more, also to treat them on the last pork hoard I managed to bring in.
We had some fun with creating our own bao bun fillings. Three main proteins were: BBQ char seiw pork - this I marinaded and then sous vided the tenderloin at 60 celsius for 2 hours. It produced an amazingly moist and tender result. I then coated the pork in honey and grilled it on an iron skillet until it charred in places, to complete the dish.
The second protein was crispy pork belly. This was so good and I highly recommend this method of first parboiling the pork, pricking the skin all over with toothpicks, sprinkling with salt and then removing that after 10 minutes and finally adding a thin layer of vinegar to the skin leaving it to dry out (uncovered) in the fridge for 24 hours (I did 3 days). The marinade for the meat was a mix of pepper, 5 spice and bean sauce, then encased it in a foil boat. I choose to airfry the pork. 2 cups of water at the base to keep it moist, and playing with the temperature from 200-160 C, at times. This took 1 hour and 15 mins. It was perfect. The crispy crunch was unbelievably good.
Protein 3: Otak Otak. A fish pate. A Malaysian dish of spiced ground fish, first steamed and then dry cooked on an open flame.
The choices of sauces: Hoisin - which was home made. Sweet chilli sauce (also home made), pickled chillies, spring onion, pickled cucumbers/red peppers and carrots. cucumber, crispy onions, soy sauce with mirin, went with any or all of the proteins for the steamed bao buns.
I'd also made a refreshingly sweet drink from lemongrass before we began on the various bottles of wine.
As a main course I picked Ah Heng Chicken Noodle soup. It's a long process to make this dish, which could be why it earned itself a Michellin star in 2022 at Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, #02-57/58/59, Blk 531A, Upper Cross Street, 051531, Singapore
Apart from the main stock from poached chicken flavored with charred garlic and ginger. The Nyonya curry powder is also unique (yes had to make that too). Other spices include onion, more garlic, chilli, more ginger finishing off with a touch of sugar, fish sauce and coconut cream. Also included in the soup (apart from the chicken) is fish slices made from fish and prawn and then fried and sliced. Tau pak which is tofu but frozen and then squeezed dry and fried, beansprouts and 2 types of noodles (vermicelli and wonton noodles) and a potato. It is a labour of love to make but worth the delight from the guests.
Dessert was a homage to my mother, who had died just over a week before. She used to make pancakes for my sister and I and, it doesn't matter that these are not the pancakes she made but I cannot make any type without remembering her tossing them into the air with our eager anticipation of them.
Pandan flavored filled pancakes with a mixture of desiccated coconut and fresh coconut mixed with coconut sugar and a dollop of ice-cream to add a finishing touch.