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Nyonya Specialties


KennethT
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I got this book from my local library:

20161112_213106.jpg

 

I have a question for those of you who do or have done this type of cooking - the book refers to an ingredient called "chilli powder" - is there a standard ingredient in Singapore with this name?  Here in NYC, I can get more than 20 different chili powders, plus what we in the US call chili powder, which is different than the Asian or Indian versions (the US chili powder is a blend of spices with cumin, etc.)  So, if I had my choice, what type of powdered chili should I get for the most authentic taste? I assume it would be a non-smoked chili - so no Ancho or Chipotle... maybe use Cayenne? Or a medium-spicy Indian chili?

 

The book also references using "dried chilli" - what type should I use here?  I assume that standard Thai chilis would be too spicy.  Andy Ricker, in his Pok Pok book, recommends using Puya chilis to stand in for the moderately spicy dried chilis available in Thailand... Should I just use those?

 

Finally, the book calls for "Curry powder" - but, by definition, this is a blend, and I'd assume that every market or manufacturer would have a different mix of spices in their version...

 

Are there any standards that people of this heritage, who grew up watching their grandmothers cook, would just know so the book feels like it wouldn't have to elaborate on?

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In Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook section on Singapore she notes that the food is usually hot and spicy with ingredients found in Indonesian and Malay kitchens can be found in Singapore kitchens.

 

There is no mention about the variety of chilies used by the powder would not be the blend you mentioned.  When I cook these recipes I use dried chiles like cayenne.  The few curry recipes in the collection use a typical combo of turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, along with soy sauce.

 

i did make the chili sauce recipe which is fantastic.  It contains 1/2 c chilli powder, 3 c sugar, 750 ml white vinegar, 375 g sultanas, 8 cloves garlic, 3 teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon ginger.

everything gets boiled until the sultanas are soft.  Cool and blend.  Process in water bath for 23 min.

 

you could like google a Singapore curry mix.

 

hope that helps.

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The more I study this book, I realize that I don't really know who its intended reader is...  The dishes seem to be a "greatest hits" of Peranakan dishes - many of which I saw when I was at the Peranakan restaurant on my last trip to SG - check out my blog for photos, etc...  but some ingredients and technique descriptions are so vague....

 

I find it interesting that the author does not list the amount of coconut milk used in various recipes - but instead, has the cook make their own coconut milk for each dish! So, instead of using 300ml of coconut milk (for example), the author would have you grate 700g of fresh coconut and squeeze to get the coconut milk (she calls #1 Coconut milk, which I imagine is actually coconut cream).  She'll then have you add water to the grated coconut to make #2 coconut milk (what I guess is coconut milk).

 

But, I think the book assumes that the reader already has an intimate knowledge of the cooking techniques associated with this cuisine.  In addition to the chilli/curry powder issues I described above, it uses such vagaries as:

-an ingredient called Streaky Pork (not defined anywhere)

-giving directions for deep frying a certain dish, she says "In a heated wok, add cooking oil and heat until very hot"

-after marinating chicken, "Place chicken in the sun to dry thoroughly"

-for Satay, the main ingredient is just "Pork" - with no specification as to the cut

-instructions for making a curry powder for meat: "Wash [whole spices] separately, drain well, and dry in the sun"....  put the ingredients on a tray, "Heat oven slightly" and toast the tray of [spices].....  what is the temperature equivalent of "heat oven slightly"?

 

Maddening....  I really want to like this book, and use it, but I wish I could ask questions of someone to help out with the stuff that is vague.

 

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It sounds like the author is assuming a certain level of familiarity with this cuisine as you say.  Maybe get another book of this cuisine with better instructions and cook with that until you feel confident enough to retry this book.  You probably have come to this conclusion too.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Sounds like a typical asian cookbook (for the locals)!

 

Chilli powder wouldn't be specific - so get one of an appropriate heat level for your tastes. Nyonya cooking likes it HOT! If it isn't hot, then its bland as my Singaporean friend kept reminding me that night at our local Nyonya restaurant.

 

Streak pork = pork belly - ie the meat has streaks of fat through it. 

 

Deep frying, the wok method, is very popular. Although, having to wait for the oil to cool down and then poor back into a bottle once cold is a pain. A western deep fryer would be simpler in my books - throw a lid on it and store.

 

I think washing the spices comes down to quality - this day and age I think we're fine.

 

You heat the spices individually before grinding to release the aromas. I normally heat on the stove with a dry frying pan on medium, when the aroma hits you you're done. Careful not to burn the spices, so stir frequently.

 

 

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On 11/14/2016 at 0:30 AM, KennethT said:

I got this book from my local library:

 

I have a question for those of you who do or have done this type of cooking - the book refers to an ingredient called "chilli powder" - is there a standard ingredient in Singapore with this name?  Here in NYC, I can get more than 20 different chili powders, plus what we in the US call chili powder, which is different than the Asian or Indian versions (the US chili powder is a blend of spices with cumin, etc.)  So, if I had my choice, what type of powdered chili should I get for the most authentic taste? I assume it would be a non-smoked chili - so no Ancho or Chipotle... maybe use Cayenne? Or a medium-spicy Indian chili?

 

The book also references using "dried chilli" - what type should I use here?  I assume that standard Thai chilis would be too spicy.  Andy Ricker, in his Pok Pok book, recommends using Puya chilis to stand in for the moderately spicy dried chilis available in Thailand... Should I just use those?

 

Finally, the book calls for "Curry powder" - but, by definition, this is a blend, and I'd assume that every market or manufacturer would have a different mix of spices in their version...

 

Are there any standards that people of this heritage, who grew up watching their grandmothers cook, would just know so the book feels like it wouldn't have to elaborate on?

I'm from Singapore, though I'm Chinese and not Peranakan, but we're exposed to the various cuisines. 

 

This cookbook is rather old. In days of old recipes were handed down verbally. So, for the same recipe prepared by two persons, they will turn up slightly different. Don't sweat the coconut thing as they're almost always simmered and reduced. 

 

For chili powder, curry powder and such, you'll be fine going for the ones from Malaysia as this cuisine is a marriage of Malay and Chinese. For dried chilli's, very those that are about 4" for less spicy, while those about 2"are spicier .

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On 11/15/2016 at 10:27 AM, KennethT said:

 

-an ingredient called Streaky Pork (not defined anywhere)

That's pork belly 

 

-giving directions for deep frying a certain dish, she says "In a heated wok, add cooking oil and heat until very hot"

Dip a wooden chopstick into oil, if you see bubbles rising along the chopstick, that's the temperature. 

 

-after marinating chicken, "Place chicken in the sun to dry thoroughly"

-for Satay, the main ingredient is just "Pork" - with no specification as to the cut

Usually no specific cuts as the meat is typically sandwiched by pieces of fats. 

 

-instructions for making a curry powder for meat: "Wash [whole spices] separately, drain well, and dry in the sun"....  put the ingredients on a tray, "Heat oven slightly" and toast the tray of [spices].....  what is the temperature equivalent of "heat oven slightly"?

You can just lightly toast them in a pan or wok just to help release the oils. 

 

Maddening....  I really want to like this book, and use it, but I wish I could ask questions of someone to help out with the stuff that is vague.

 

 

Edited by barista (log)
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