Sunday, 30 September 2007

CTK chronicles

Thank you everyone for checking on me throughout the past 2 unintentionally silent months (someone pinch me, did they really go by like that?)! To be perfectly honest without trying to sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself, things hadn't been easy on me on many fronts, and will not get better for another couple of months, so blogging just had to take a backseat.

(It was unfortunate that I had to be so bogged down because I definitely had lots to say, in particular with regards to Emon Chatterjee being ousted from Indian Idol!!! No way! The injustice!! The kid is GIFTED! And anyone who sounds like Sonu has an immediate place in my heart! :) So yes, if I'd already been too down to blog, this slid yet another gin tonic between my helpless fingers! Poor Emon! :( )

Of course, I could have kept you entertained with pictures of the "ugly" food I had been cooking during my absence, but none of them are quite as worthy as what I have prepared for this post! :) I cannot think of any other dish in my repertoire that surpasses this one in mindboggling simplicity (ahem, for some! ;-) ), affordability and Singaporeanness, but I can bet my bottom Singdollar that few of my Singaporean readers would have attempted making this at home and succeeded, and by that, I mean, while living in Singapore. :) Why would they when it can be procured around the clock in less than half an hour with at most, a few oily forks to wash?

It's no myth that few Singaporeans bother to learn how to cook until they become exiles like me, and I help to perpetuate that stereotype, but the things an exile would do for survival when frequent trips back aren't feasible. :)

There is nothing inherently exquisite about carrot cake aka chai tow kway but this post is dedicated to my sister (I know you're reading this!) who has attempted and failed it all of 4 times, and mean as it is to snigger, it has been one of my favourite subjects of teasing.. ;-) She lives in Japan, so maybe getting the right ingredients are tricky, or is she just not looking in the right places? ;-) I've tried to help, but my last resort - sending a bag of rice flour - sounds ridiculous, so I'll be contented with letting her savour it only on trips back to Singapore! :) heh heh...

What you need:

How to: Mix 400g rice flour with 200g tapioca starch. Add 1 grated radish (I added a grated carrot) and about 500ml of water or stock at room temperature. Add another 500ml - 800ml of boiling water or stock and stir until there are no more lumps. Pour mixture into a casserole and cook until all liquid is absorbed (it gets very thick, so the spoon will get stuck) and transfer to a steamer. Steam for about half an hour. It should have a slightly springy consistency because of the tapioca starch. Cut into small cubes when it has completely cooled.

This recipe makes enough for 8 - 10, so this plateful of cubes shows only a quarter of the final product.

Preserved salted radish (yes, again!) strips, aka chai por.

You'll also need fish sauce and crushed garlic, but my bottle of fish sauce is quite a mess, so I'd prefer to keep your appetites intact by not showing it! :)

About 3 or 4 of these guys for 2...

Not entirely necessary, but to glam up this humble dish, I sometimes add prawns.

Lastly, shallot chives for garnish.

How to: Heat about 2tbps of oil (purists would recommend lard, but I'm happy enough with sunflower oil) in a wok on high heat and throw in the cubes of carrot cake. Fry until the surfaces are slightly toasted and crisp, then splash 1 - 2 tbsp of fish sauce and add the preserved radish strips. Add garlic now if you don't like it too strong, and fry for about a minute, then add lightly-beaten eggs. When eggs are fully cooked, remove from heat, sprinkle shallot chives and serve with chilli paste.

I was too impatient to let mine brown and crisp, so it could have been darker and better. :)

Variations: This is the "white" version, which is the only version I like. The "black" version includes a dark sweet sauce which I've never learned to make and can't seem to find ready-made here, but who's asking for any? :)

Body count: About 15 prawns.