At a peer-to-peer recipe sharing session organised by Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) in preparation for the lunar new year, the usual suspects were nowhere in view. No Buddha Jumps Over The Wall, yue sheng, abalone (pao yue), dried oyster (hoe see), pork trotter, whole fish or nian gao, not even a spring roll.
Instead, the three kitchen gods – Datuk Ringo Kaw (director of Asean Culinary Academy and Kelana Jaya Seafood Restaurants), Chef Sun and Chef Alan Wong – presiding over the affairs were singing the praises of ingredients like salted egg yolk and lime-flavoured powder.
Salted egg yolk, a flavour trending in the last three years, looks set to be the hottest new prosperity cook tool in the kitchen. In fact, Unilever Food Solutions is betting that this flavour is here to stay – UFS has launched a salted egg yolk powder for its food service sector.
Wong, who is Unilever Food Solutions’ chef in Malaysia, offered a stylish golden soup of Curry Salted Egg Veloute, calling the salted egg yolk “a great ingredient”.
As part of chefs’ testimony at the event, Pullman hotel’s Chef Ken called it the “golden crumb” and “yellow gold” or “wang kum” of 2018.
Flip through the Knorr (a major UFS brand) cookbook that was launched at the event and you will find more surprising ingredients being proposed for the upcoming Lunar New Year.
Double boiled black chicken herbal soup, golden cheesy lobster, braised lobster with brown rice, cheese baked scallops, angel hair pasta with sour and spicy lime juice shrimp, fried frog legs with honey mint sauce and salted egg sauce and an unusual combo of lamb and fish steamed in a dish.
Black chicken is totally unconventional in the world of Chinese symbolism and eating for prosperity to start a new year, black being an inauspicious colour.
If you take the cue from Sun and Wong, authors of the cookbook targeted at Chinese restaurant chefs, we are ready to change things up a bit this year.
In its press statement, UFS, calling itself an industry thought leader in terms of identifying trends and coming up with suitable inspirations aligned to the industry’s latest developments, said it’s about how to keep your menu fresh and exciting as times and tastes change.
The word most tossed around at this sharing, learning and networking workshop was “fhun”, a reference to powder in Cantonese – and in particular, chicken stock powder, the “magic dust” of Chinese kitchens these days.
“I can say that I use chicken stock powder in almost every dish,” revealed Chef Liong of Royal Chulan Damansara.
Has chicken stock powder replaced the MSG linked to the infamous Chinese restaurant syndrome? And if all the chefs are using convenience stock powders, wouldn’t that create a great universality of flavour?
“Not at all,” countered Nusrat Perveen, Unilever Food Solutions Malaysia country head. “Everyone cooks with chicken, for example, but no two chicken dishes taste the same. Convenience stock powders leave chefs more time and the freedom to be more creative. We want to free chefs for creativity.”
The creativity most apparent is in the way dishes are being plated. “It’s all in the presentation,” said Sun, who is one of Penang’s Top 10 best Chinese chefs (1998) and winner of the Best Food Presentation Award at the 2005 World Golden Chef Competition.
In line with recent trends, individual plating of dishes is favoured by top chefs, a move away from the Chinese tradition of everyone tucking into a pool of dishes for sharing placed at the centre of the table.
In a move towards greater refinement in eating habits, Sun proposes we include rice as a considered part of the meal, beautifully worked into the landscape on the plate, rather than as a blank white canvas to be wolfed down with gusto.
Tradition and symbolism can also be suggested subtly, in a medallion of rice tinted red with red wine lees – or beetroot, if you like – instead of the more literal play on the sounds of words that is prevalent at this time of year.
Want more auspicious red? Take inspiration from red dragon fruit, goji berry, red chilli and the bright red shells of cooked lobsters and prawns.
To free yourself up for more creativity, you can take the cue from this chef from the kitchens of the Sime Darby Convention Centre who shared this truism of our modern times:
“It’s so convenient now: you can have lime flavour without squeezing any limes, salted egg yolk without cracking any eggs and chicken stock without chopping any chicken.” Voilà!
FUZHOU RED WINE FRIED RICE WITH SAKURA SHRIMP
10 large prawns, peeled
60g Sakura dried shrimp, soaked
1 tbsp sesame oil
60g long beans, diced
60g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked
1 tbsp cooking oil
800g cooked rice
1½ tbsp Fuzhou red wine lees (residue)
½ egg white
½ tsp chicken stock powder
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
3 tsp chicken stock powder
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp oyster sauce
½ tsp pepper
½ tbsp ginger juice
fried onion crisps
fried garlic crisps
spring onion, chopped
Season prawns with the marinade and set aside. Fry the dried shrimp with sesame oil until crisp. Remove shrimp and drain on paper towels.
Stir-fry long beans lightly and soak in water for about 5 minutes, then drain. Dice the mushrooms and boil for 5 minutes then drain.
In a clean wok, heat the cooking oil and scramble the eggs. Add rice and wine lees. Stir-fry over medium-high heat. Add the long beans and mushrooms and stir-fry over high heat.
Add seasoning and marinated prawns, and continue to fry until prawns are cooked. Add the aromatic garnish and stir to mix well. Serve garnished with Sakura shrimp. – Chef Sun
CHEESE BAKED SCALLOP ON SHELL
10 scallops in shell
200g mozzarella cheese
80g parmesan cheese powder
8 tbsp tartar sauce
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp wasabi paste or powder to taste
30g fried minced garlic
10g coriander, chopped
3 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
100g mango, diced
80g melon, diced
salt to taste
ebiko (Japanese prawn roe)
To prepare scallops
Remove scallops from shells and half cook them in boiling water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Place scallops back on the shells.
To make garlic dressing
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, seasoning to taste.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Arrange scallops in a baking tray. Cover each scallop with a generous teaspoon of garlic dressing and top with cheese. Place the baking tray on the top deck of the oven and grill scallops until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Place the scallops around a platter. Combine the fruit salad ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss well, seasoning to taste. Place a heap of salad on the platter. Garnish with the ebiko. – Chef Sun
STEAMED BASIL YUM THAI FISH
6 servings as main dish; 10-12 servings as part of a Chinese meal
Nanyang Thai Sauce
50g Thai-style chilli sauce
50g sour plum sauce
50g red chillies
15g parsley stems
15g young ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp white sugar or to taste
15g lime powder or 1 tbsp lime juice
Basil minced lamb
50g cooking oil
50g chilli paste
100g shallots, minced
25g garlic, minced
500g lamb, minced
15g basil, chopped
5g chicken stock powder
5g lime powder or lime juice
500g basil minced lamb (base layer)
1-1.2kg white fish fillet (middle layer)
200g Nanyang Thai sauce (topping)
5g fried shallot crisps
5g red chillies, sliced
For the sauce
Blend everything together to a paste.
For the base layer
Heat oil and saute the chilli paste, shallots and garlic until aromatic. Add minced lamb and seasoning. Stir-fry evenly for 5 minutes; stir in the basil.
In a claypot, make a base layer with the minced lamb. Place fish over this and cover with the sauce. Cover pot with lid and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Serve, garnished.
This can also be steamed in smaller individual portions in leaf-lined bamboo steaming baskets. – Chef Alan Wong