Here are some recipes that we have put together for dads who want to expand into cooking Singapore food! All of them are relatively easy to make family favourites. Some are heirlooms passed down the generations, and some, heirlooms in the making.
They are all delicious dishes, heritage recipes, embedded with a repository of precious memories, heart beats, hopes, dreams and love; that have the power to connect and bond family and community.
Braised Power Pig’s Trotter by Larry Lim (Father of One)
“Braised pig’s trotter is a family favourite! The basic dish is simple to make and can easily be powered up with many optional ingredients to please even the fussy eater! My son is still young, and does not appreciate the texture of the meat, even if it is melt-in-your-mouth tender. However, powering up the dish with the optional ingredients such as mushrooms, eggs and bean curd cakes makes it a dish that he just loves.
Whenever I cook this dish, I usually include a lot more mushrooms, bean curd cakes and eggs. The mushrooms give the dish a very unique flavor and the braised eggs and bean curd cakes bring added flavor and colour. My son knows that when daddy cooks pig trotters, the mushrooms, eggs and bean curd cakes are especially for him! He knows that his daddy loves him because he has cooked them especially for him, and that is Daddy’s way of showing him that he loves him! I just long for the day when my son can fully appreciate the braised meat that comes with the mushrooms, eggs and bean curd!
This dish essentially involves 2 steps: Cleaning the trotters and braising the stew. The preparation time is actually only about 15 minutes in all, with the cooking time taking at least 2 hours. Meat loving dads can easily prepare this dish easily by timing the preparation just before the start of a movie. The dish will be ready by the time the movie is over! What is more, the flavor intensifies if left overnight in the fridge, so leftovers are a bonus. The dish is so versatile, it can easily transform into another dish the next day just by adding ingredients like chicken feet, other bean curd products, or even sea cucumber!”
1) 1 Teaspoon salt
2) 2 Tablespoon cooking oil
3) 1 Tablespoon black peppercorn
4) 2 Star anise
5) 2 Sticks – 4 cm long cinnamon
6) 3 Cloves
7) 8 Whole washed garlic (do not remove skin)
8) 6 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
9) 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
10) 1/2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
11) 1 Tablespoon brown sugar/sugar
12) 1 Pig’s Trotter chopped – Fore trotters have less fat
13) 5 Cups water
14) 5-10 Dried shitake mushrooms
15) 1 Pack beancurd sticks – Tau Kee
16) 4 Shelled hard boiled eggs
17) 1 Pack beancurd cakes – Tau Kwa
18) 1 Pack beancurd puffs – Tau Pok
19) 1 Pack pork tendon – deep fried
20) 1 Pack pork skin -deep fried
21) 1 handful corriander
1. Wash pig’s trotter and remove any hair between toes with small tweezers or burn them away a lighter. Massage salt well on to pig’s trotter and leave aside.
2. Fill a pot with water and bring it to boil. Ensure that you have enough water to cover the trotter. Blanch the trotter for 5 minutes to remove unwanted smell and residue.
3. Remove pig’s trotter from the pot, and rinse under the tap for a good clean. Leave aside to drip dry.
Frying the Spices
4. Place cooking oil in a pot on low heat. Add items 3-7 and stir fry gently till fragrant. This will take under 5 minutes.
5. Add items 8 – 12 to the pot and stir well for another 5 minutes.
6. Add water and simmer on low heat for 1 to 2 hours (1 hour – if you like your pig’s trotter firm, and 2 hours if you like it tender). Check on the water level after 1 hour, and top up with more boiling water if required.
7. Beancurd sticks – Soak the sticks in water for 2 hours to soften. Add to stew in the last hour. (Deep fried beancurd sticks do not require soaking, and can be added together with items 15-20.)
8. Dried Shitake mushrooms can be added for an additional layer of flavor to the dish. Soak the mushrooms in a bowl for one hour to soften. Cut off the stems and discard. The mushroom water can be added to the stew when it needs topping up.
9. Items 14-20 should be simmered for about 40 minutes, so plan in the time for the preparation and cooking of these items.
10. Garnish with chopped coriander when serving.
Har Cheong Kai by Tan Chye Kee (Father of Four)
“My father taught me this recipe. He was a chef for a zi char establishment before he retired some years back. This recipe uses tapioca starch instead of regular corn flour, which he says, and which I have come to believe, is the secret to the crispness of this har cheong kai. Everyone always asks me to fry this chicken whenever there are family gatherings, and it’s a real crowd pleaser. I have already passed this recipe on to my daughter and hopefully when I am too old and feeble to be able to cook anymore, she can take over the making of this dish.”
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ Tablespoon oyster sauce
2 Tablespoon water
2 Tablespoon har cheong (Chinese fermented prawn paste)
2 chicken legs, about 400g, wash, drain, and chop chunky
¼ cup tapioca starch
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1. Add sugar, oyster sauce, water and har cheong to chicken. Stir thoroughly. Marinate the chicken for 3-4 hours.
2. Shake off excess marinade from chicken. Thinly coat in tapioca starch and pat lightly to get rid of excess starch.
3. Deep-fry chicken in moderately hot oil over medium heat till cooked through and lightly golden brown.
4. Remove chicken to a sieve. Increase heat to high. Heat oil till just smoking. Re-fry the chicken until golden brown. Drain in a sieve lined with paper towels. Serve immediately.
Gujarati Masala Prawns by Pravina Jitendra (Mother of Two)
“This is one of the many recipes that my mother taught me to make. It is a dish both my mother and in-laws used to make from time to time, and I make it for my kids now. This dish is not reserved for any special occasion; it is just a regular homemade dish. The recipe was created by a small community of people (the Gujaratis) here I suppose, so it is not something you can usually find in Indian restaurants. The recipe may seem simple but to be honest, perfecting it takes practice and a good sense and judgment; I do not measure ingredients. I go by my feeling with the proportions.”
1kg prawns, shelled, deveined (keep their tails on)
1kg red onions, chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped roughly
½ Teaspoon salt
¼ Teaspoon turmeric powder
4-5 Tablespoon oil
To make Masala:
8 big red chilies
8 garlic cloves
1. To make the masala, grind the masala ingredients in processor until it becomes a fine paste.
2. Heat up oil in a wok.
3. When the oil is heated, fry the onions over medium heat until slightly golden brown. About 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently.
4. Add in the masala paste and continue frying over medium heat for another 5 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
5. Add salt and turmeric powder into the masala. (Add another ¼ tsp of turmeric powder if more is needed later).
6. Add tomatoes to the masala. Mix well and continue frying.
7. Start to lower the heat slightly and continue to fry for another 5 to 10 minutes.
8. Add prawns and fry over low heat.
9. Allow the prawns to cook. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Choose a recipe and make it your own by “powering it up” with unique ingredients. Develop a heritage recipe in a dad and kids joint venture. Involve the children in helping with the simpler tasks of measuring, beating, mixing, cleaning up and tasting, to create a family memory of tastes, sights and smells.
The sad news is that in busy Singapore, many families do not have regular meals together anymore. This is a pity because just being together as a family has its own power and magic. It is as they say, the family that eats together, stays together, and we couldn’t agree more.
Invite some of your busier friends and neighbours for a heritage meal at your home. Dining with your family might just inspire them to start having meals together with their own families on a more regular basis.
Also, do remember “Eat With Your Family Day” on 31 May this year. Organised by the Centre for Fathering, in conjunction with the National Family Celebrations, employers in Singapore will be encouraged support the promotion of strong family ties by allowing their employees to leave work at 5pm so that they can get home to have dinner with their families.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 08-05-2013