Three families share their season's traditions and tell us what will be on their tables this Yuletide.
LOBSTER MEE POK
That old adage about having too many cooks in the kitchen doesn't apply to everyone. For one family at least, kitchen time means quality time - where all five members, comprising lawyers Susan and Adrian Peh and children Melissa, Bertrand and Desiree, enjoy cooking and sharing ideas about food.
The menu this year includes roast turkey with onions and lemons and roasted yams and sweet potatoes in goose fat, pan-fried wagyu beef and lobster noodles in XO sauce, and a log cake for dessert. There are also plans to include a fish dish.
Preparation time: Minimum 30 minutes
Cooking: Minimum 60 minutes
Ingredients A. Stock
7 bowls chicken stock (use ready-made stock, or for a richer base, boil a whole skinned chicken in a medium-sized slow cooker, filled with water to about three quarters, together with 1 clove garlic and 3 slices ginger for around 6 hours)
3 raw salted egg yolks, finely mashed
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1/2 bowl chopped garlic
6 slices of young ginger
1 tbsp yellow bean paste
21/2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Hua Tiew wine
3 tablespoons leek, sliced
11/2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp XO sauce
Sprinkling of shrimp roe
B. Marinated minced pork
50g minced pork
1/4 tsp light soy sauce
2 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 tsp corn flour (starch)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
6 halves medium-sized Maine lobsters
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp corn flour
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp sea salt
4 cups cooking oil
D. Mee Pok
6 servings mee pok
6 stalks Shanghai Green vegetables
1 red chilli
3 stalks spring onions
1. Melt butter in frying pan over moderate fire. Add finely mashed salted egg yolk and quickly stir fry for about 60 seconds, constantly mashing until fine consistency. Do not overcook. Put mixture aside.
2. Heat cooking oil over moderate fire. Add chopped garlic and sliced ginger. Lightly fry until fragrant.
3. Add yellow bean paste and stir fry until fragrant.
4. Add chicken stock and bring to boil.
5. Add salted egg mixture in (1) above. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.
6. Strain stock to achieve smooth consistency.
7. Ladle out some strained hot soup into the bowl of marinated pork in B to loosen the minced pork. Set aside.
8. Add oyster sauce, mirin, sesame oil and Hua Tiew wine to strained stock.
9. Stir in the loosened marinated pork to strained stock. Bring to boil.
10. Add XO sauce.
11. Add corn starch solution to thicken stock according to preference.
12. Taste and add any of the ingredients listed in A to suit. Put stock aside.
1. Wash lobsters, crack pincers.
2. Dry lobsters and roll over flour, corn flour, pepper and sea salt mix.
3. Heat wok filled generously with oil to deep fry lobsters.
4. Once oil is very hot, add lobsters. Fry till meat is opaque and shell turns red.
5. Strain the lobsters and put aside.
1. Bring half pot of water to boil. Add 1 tsp cooking oil.
2. Cook mee pok to desired texture.
3. Place mee pok in strainer and rinse with cold tap water. Put mee pok aside.
Garnish 1. Bring half pot of water to boil. Add 1/2 tsp cooking oil.
2. Add washed Shanghai Green vegetables and cook for about 30 seconds. Put cooked vegetables aside.
3. Seed 1 red chilli, cut into small squares. Thinly slice spring onions until they curl.
4. Sprinkle shrimp roe all over dish.
To serve: Place mee pok, lobsters and vegetables on plate. Pour hot stock generously over. Garnish as desired.
SGOMBRO AL FORNO (OVEN-BAKED MACKEREL IN TOMATO SAUCE)
When Lino Sauro moved to Singapore 10 years ago, he might have left his home town in Sicily, but he sure didn't leave his traditions behind. Every year, the chef-owner of Gattopardo Ristorante Di Mare celebrates Christmas the way he grew up, almost as if he never left.
The star of the dining table is Chef Sauro's Sgombro al Forno, which is an oven-baked mackerel in tomato sauce.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Ready in: 60 minutes. Serves four
1kg fresh mackerel fillet
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 handful capers (Chef Sauro gets his from Pantelleria in Sicily)
1 leek, chopped
A pinch of oregano
1 cup fish stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Flour, to line the terracotta pot
Half glass of white wine
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish
1. To clean the mackerel, remove the head before slicing it in half to take out the central spine.
2. Once clean, lightly sprinkle flour on the fish, before placing it in a medium-sized terracotta pot.
3. Arrange the chopped tomatoes, capers, leek and minced garlic in the pot.
4. Add oregano, salt, ground pepper and olive oil.
5. Cover the pot and bake it at 180 deg C for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the pot and splash in the white wine and fish stock before returning it to the oven.
6. When cooked, plate the Sgombro al Forno on a serving dish with steamed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley.
EMIL TEO'S GRANDMOTHER TAN BEE LUAN'S CURRY POWDER RECIPE
With the celebration of Christmas said to have been inspired by an ancient Roman winter solstice festival that saw banquets last several days, it shouldn't be surprising that Jade Kua and Emil Teo throw multiple feasts throughout the festive season.
"Emil often makes something thoughtful for our guests to bring home, like packets of homemade curry powder or little jars of achar," said Dr Kua, a specialist in paediatric emergency medicine, of her husband, the executive director of wine distribution company Taste of Tradition.
5 katis / 3kg biji ketumba (coriander seeds)
1.5 katis / 750g dried chillies
3 taels / 115g jintan puteh (cumin seeds)
3 taels / 115g jintan manis (fennel seeds)
5 taels / 190g kaokao (khas khas) (white poppy seeds)
3 taels / 115g biji sawi (black mustard seeds)
6 taels / 230g kunyit kering (dried turmeric)
2 taels / 75g kayu manis (cinnamon)
5 taels / 38g bunga chingkay (cloves)
Sun dry all ingredients and mill into a powder.
This article by The Business Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.