Friday, March 01, 2013
I had grand plans this week, originally, for a bunch of jumbo tiger prawns I bought and froze sometime before Chinese New Year. That was until the viral flu hit me and reminded me of my mortal vulnerability. But even as I snorted and sneezed my way around the house, rendered almost delirious with headaches and bad sleeps, the last thing I wanted to do was eat takeaways. This is what happens when one grows up with superb cooks for parents and imminently a sharp, picky palate.
This palate, this quest for perfection and seriousness in food, to be honest, can be of inconvenience at times. Imagine a day considered ruined by just one mediocre or bad meal eating out. I wish I could take food with a pinch of salt. But no, everything has to be spot on - no overcooking of seafood, undercooking of meat, lack of seasoning, overdressing of salads, the list goes on. Cooking is science, art, technique, all of these, which I pursue to master and explore, but as Nigella says, really relates to eating. One rarely cooks well but not eat better.
So I went on with part one of the grand plan, with salted eggs (I used only half of my frozen stash). With my sore eyeballs and leaking nose, some soldering in the kitchen produced a close to perfect first time attempt at this dish. I understand now why late Dad championed home-cooking with all his might, come rain or shine, hell or high water, angry Mum or kids running amok. Good food is a whole lot of love, care and thoughtfulness, something you can only guarantee by cooking it yourself.
Salted Egg Prawns
Serves 4 to 6
Note: Personally I find this recipe best with shelled prawns, simply because the deep fried coating stuck will all those salted egg and butter goodness would be wasted on shells discarded during eating. You'll want large to jumbo prawns, which works best for the deep frying treatment.
Place the prawns in a medium bowl. Add in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, corn flour, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well to coat and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients and salted eggs. Clean and break the salted eggs, separating the yolk and white. Reserve the white for steaming with minced meat (recipe to come). Steam the salted egg yolks on medium heat, for about 8 minutes. Remove and mash finely with a fork.
- 400-500 grams large or jumbo prawns (peeled, deveined with tails intact, I used jumbo tiger prawns here)
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon corn flour
- pinch of salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 salted eggs
- 6-8 tablespoons corn flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 sprig curry leaf, picked
- 3-4 bird eye chilies, sliced thinly
- 4 cloves garlic, minced finely
In heat enough oil in a wok for deep frying the prawns (you can do this in batches). Spread 6-8 tablespoons of corn flour in a plate. Shake of excess marinate and coat all the prawns with corn flour. Once oil is hot enough (the Chinese method to test is using a wooden, uncoated chopstick dipped into the oil, rapid bubbles will form around it), reduce heat to medium and fry the prawns swiftly will just opaque, about 45 seconds for each batch. (If you're using medium prawns, cook for just about 30 seconds.) Remove and drain on paper towels.
Clean the wok and return 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add the butter, curry leaves, chilies and garlic. Once mixture is fragrant and garlic slightly browned, add in the mashed salted egg yolk. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly. As soon as the egg yolks are well mixed and start to froth, return the fried prawns into the wok. Stir just to coat the prawns well. Remove to a serving plate lined with some lettuce and serve immediately.
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Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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