Sunday, December 23, 2018

Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears | 紅酒燉洋梨

It's that time of the year again! As the holiday season nears and as temperatures drop, I find myself instinctively craving the scent of warm spices, the comfort of a mug of boozy hot gluhwëin, and some good old Mariah multi-octave jingle. (I like to believe that I am not the only one who has this peculiarly seasonal, recurring hankering. Listening now as I write.)

Add flair and romance to any dinner, be it a special holiday or a regular weeknight!
When it comes to an all-time favorite dessert especially fitting for this time of the year, it's none other than red wine poached pears - a classic French preparation that is not only as elegant as it is delicious, but also reigns as one of the easiest desserts to make. If you are one that has opened bottles of red wine lying around the house, perfect. If you are not, just pop one open (a cheap one will do) and into the saucepan you add some spices and pears - et voilà, in as little as 30 minutes you have a show-stopper of a dessert.

Poached pears can be served warm or chilled and made in advance; and with virtually no room for failure it makes for a terrific dessert choice for your special holiday dinner or any regular weeknight in need of some holiday cheer or a classy, romantic touch. This recipe calls for pears and the mainstays of cold-weather spices: cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, but feel free to experiment with apples, cardamon and even peppercorns. Substitute some of the wine with fresh-squeezed orange juice and try adding some peel for a more citrus-y note. No matter your concoction, the simmering dessert will infuse your kitchen with a heart-warming scent of mulled wine that transports you to the most enchanting, fairy-tale like Christmas markets across Europe.

Dessert can't get any easier than this! Besides, you are sure to have a (almost) guilt-free crowd pleaser. After all, it's just fruit and alcohol, isn't it?

What you'll need...
4 firm ripe Bosc or Conference pears
3 cups red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 star anise
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the pears so they can stand upright. Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact.

2. Combine wine, sugar, spices and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer. Add the pears, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes or until the pears are cooked but still firm, turning the pears every 5-10 minutes to ensure even color.

3. If preparing in advance, refrigerate in poaching liquid for up to two days. When ready to serve, remove the pears and spices and boil the poaching liquid until at least reduced by half or, if desired, reduced into a syrup for drizzling. Serve with mascarpone, whipped cream, or vanilla ice-cream. Bon appétit!

【 紅酒燉洋梨 】
啤梨                         4 個
紅酒                         700 毫升
砂糖                         100 克
肉桂枝                    1 枝
丁香                        2 粒
八角                        2 粒
純雲呢拿香油      1 茶匙(可免)

1. 啤梨去皮,切勿切走啤梨蒂啊!用刀於啤梨底部輕輕切平,以確保上碟時能夠直立。
2. 紅酒注入不鏽鋼鍋中,加入肉桂枝、八角、丁香和砂糖,用中火煮至糖溶解。
3. 加入啤梨,轉慢火煮約 25-30 分鐘至軟身,期間每 5-10 分鐘翻動啤梨一次讓其均勻上色。將啤梨取出晾涼。
4. 隔掉香料,用大火將燉紅酒煮至輕微濃稠成紅酒汁。享用啤梨時可拌些紅酒汁,亦可加入忌廉、香草雪糕。


[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Friday, November 30, 2018

KitchenAid: #CapturingTaste 美食造型及攝影企劃

一道佳餚除了需要味道上乘,香氣滿溢,創意悅目的賣相、 裝飾和佈置都能令一道佳餚更加完滿,色香味俱全。』

KitchenAid 今次聯乘SONY製作是次企劃,令更多人可以發揮烹飪創意,懂得透過 鏡頭,捕捉每位城中名廚、FoodStylist 及每道美饌最美麗動人一刻; 更可以聚首 一堂分享感動五官的美食體驗,一起迎接詭異萬聖節和普天同慶的燦爛聖誕!

In their latest campaign #CapturingTaste, KitchenAid partners up with SONY and brings together six talented local chefs and food stylists in a series of food photography and styling workshops, featuring half a dozen designs celebrating the spirit of Halloween and Christmas. Through the workshops we share the tricks of the trade and celebrate the power of food styling in elevating the sensory experience of delicious food to the next level.
#CapturingTaste: Halloween and Christmas inspired creations by six talented chefs!

In the kick-off event the star-studded lineup of chefs showcased their individual creativity and talents in a burst of vibrant colors, with spooky orange and black dominating the Halloween section of the showroom and an enchanting, sparkly melange of white, red and green on the other. Participants got to play hands-on in decorating their own dish with the guidance of respective chefs and practice photo shooting with a SONY camera. This event will be followed by subsequent workshops where chefs will partner up in teams of two and allow for an even more intimate and personalized setting for participants to interact and put their creativity and skills to the test!

『單看 Alvin 這一道「南式生死戀」造型會覺得有點詭異,但其實他是暖男廚師一名!本身任職空中服務員的 Alvin 特別為設計和烹調這道菜,過去一個月每飛到不同地方的時候,都會花時間去搜購不同品種的南瓜,加上創新構思以一種食材變化出兩種食法和味道,配以一個史詩式名字,心思度滿分呀!』    — KitchenAid Ideas

Click below for the recipe and the story behind!
Trick or Treat, Heat or Sweet: Halloween Stuffed Pumpkin Duo | 萬聖「南」式生死戀 

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick or Treat, Heat or Sweet: Halloween Stuffed Pumpkin Duo | 萬聖「南」式生死戀

Fall is finally here! My favorite season of the year brings cooler evenings, an end to ravaging typhoons, yellowing leaves, spiced apple cider, and loads and loads of pumpkins. Around the world this autumn staple pops up in menus from pastas, baked goods, your morning coffee and, soon, to all things Halloween. I realize all these years I haven't done much for Halloween, but that is all going to change!

My first ever hand-carved mini Jack-O'-Lanterns! Feed them a candle and watch as they come alive!

Several weeks ago KitchenAid Hong Kong got in touch with me regarding an exciting opportunity to collaborate in an upcoming campaign #CapturingTaste. They are to partner up with SONY and host a series of food photography and styling workshops, featuring creations by a talented team of local chefs handpicked by KitchenAid. Before I knew it, I've reached for an imaginary paper bag in case of hyperventilation upon receiving this extraordinary invitation. The event is slated to debut on October 30; and my assigned theme is Halloween - perfectly in time for the spooky celebration!

Flanked by a star-studded lineup of half a dozen accomplished chefs, entrepreneurs and cooking school founders, I couldn't help but feel intimidated. We were each assigned a theme and tasked to design and prepare one dish at the KitchenAid live kitchen to be the centerpiece of a professional photo shoot. Imagination is one's own limit, granted that healthful eating and sustainability is taken into account and that artificial food coloring is avoided at all cost. Sounds right up my alley!
In the weeks following, as fireworks began to set off in my brain, I delineated several routes I could take to bring Halloween to life. Do I want to go gory, gross, and scary? Nah. Spooky but cute? Maybe. Color themed with a touch of fall and fusion? Yes! Having seen crates upon crates of colorful, adorable (some adorably deformed and resembling a witch's wart-covered nose) pumpkins and squash in markets in Europe and the U.S., already I was certain that these would play a pivotal role in the presentation of my dish. All I needed was to inject creativity and a splash of orange and black.

While orange colors are rather easy to come by in the plant kingdom, black may not be as prevalent. Drawing inspirations from international cuisines and ingredients, I scoured my mind for all things naturally black in nature. Squid ink, charcoal powder, olives... and bam! Thai black glutinous rice came up in a conversation with a friend. My eyes lit up, sending sparkles throughout my brain. That is it. I am going to create a Halloween mini stuffed pumpkin duo drawing influences from Thai and other cuisines.

Black sticky rice and pumpkin are both traditional dessert ingredients ubiquitous across Thailand. I decided to steam rather than simmer the glutinous rice for a firmer and less runny consistency, and drizzle in a salty sweet coconut sauce exactly like what you'll find on sticky rice with mango desserts everywhere in Thailand. A knot of pandan leaf and just a tad of Thai palm sugar is added to the rice before steaming to infuse a hint of sweetness and that unmistakable, comforting fragrant note. Feel free to substitute the more delicate Thai palm sugar with gula melaka - the smokier, toffee-edged version of palm sugar, or brown sugar if neither is available.

Watch my mini "tutorial" on carving your own mini Jack-O'-Lanterns!

To counter the sweet treat, I made hummus - yes, I know, a little out of the blue it seems - but this is not your ordinary hummus, but a velvety smooth orange-hued pumpkin hummus with a Thai twist and unanticipated heat. A Thai red curry pumpkin hummus that you just can't stop dipping into. You can use canned pure pumpkin here, but why not make from scratch when it's so easy? Just chop, steam, and peel and in it goes into the processor. Makes a wonderful Halloween party snack, and both recipes are entirely gluten-free and vegan-friendly too! Now this is what I call a Halloween trick or treat!

Mini pumpkins and squashes

1. Cut about a quarter to a third of the pumpkins to make a lid. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp and save for other use.

Black Sticky Rice Pudding with Pumpkin
3/4 cup Thai black glutinous rice
1/4 cup white glutinous rice
1 pandan leaf
2 teaspoons Thai palm sugar, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Boiling water

Diced Pumpkin:
120 g butternut squash

Coconut Sauce:
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Black Sticky Rice Pudding:
1. Combine the rice, wash and soak in water for at least 3 hours up to overnight. Drain and rinse, and place into a heatproof dish. Tie the pandan leaf into a knot and nestle into the glutinous rice. Scatter chopped palm sugar on top of the rice.

2. Add some boiling water to the dish, leaving a top layer or rice exposed. Steam for 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked but still retains a chewy and slightly crunchy texture.

3. Discard pandan leaf and stir in salt and three-quarters of the coconut sauce. Set aside and allow the rice to absorb the coconut sauce. If making ahead of time, do not mix in the coconut sauce until ready to eat. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, drizzle some more coconut sauce, and scatter diced pumpkin over the rice.

Diced Pumpkin:
Dice pumpkin into small cubes. Steam for 4 minutes, remove and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Coconut Sauce:
Warm coconut cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved.

Thai Red Curry Pumpkin Hummus
1 can (425 g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
420 g butternut squash
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup coconut milk

Garnish (optional):
Paprika | Bird's eye chili, chopped | Cilantro, chopped

1. Rinse, scrape out all the seeds and pulp, and cut butternut squash into large chunks. Steam for 8-10 minutes until softened and easily pierced with a fork. Remove skin once cooled enough to handle.

2. Place chickpeas, cooked pumpkin, garlic, grated ginger, tahini, curry paste, and coconut milk in a food processor, blend, and check taste and consistency. Add more coconut milk if necessary to loosen. To increase heat, blend in half a bird's eye chili. Puree until smooth. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, and top with garnish.

【 萬聖「南」式生死戀 】

泰國黑糯米           3/4 杯
泰國白糯米           1/4 杯
斑蘭葉                    1 片
泰國棕櫚糖            2 茶匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙
滾水                         適量

南瓜                         120 克

椰漿                         115 毫升
砂糖                         1/2 湯匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙

1. 黑糯米和白糯米洗淨,用清水浸三小時或過夜。 
2. 南瓜切小粒, 隔水蒸四分鐘後撈起浸冰水。撈起備用。
3. 斑蘭葉打個小結,連同隔了水的糯米放在蒸盆內。棕櫚糖撒在面。注入滾水(隔水蒸 25-30 分鐘。
4. 椰漿用慢火煮開,加入鹽和糖,拌勻備用。
5. 糯米蒸好後把斑蘭葉拔出。拌入幼鹽和部分椰汁,靜置數分鐘,讓糯米吸收掉椰汁。
6. 食用前再淋上剩餘椰汁和撒上南瓜粒,即成!

罐裝鷹嘴豆              425 克
南瓜                           420 克
蒜頭                            3 瓣
薑蓉                            1 茶匙
純芝麻醬                   2 湯匙
泰國紅咖哩               1 1/2 湯匙
椰汁                            60 毫升

裝飾用:紅椒粉 | 指天椒(切粒)| 芫荽(切粒)

1. 南瓜去籽洗淨後切段,隔水蒸 8-10 分鐘至軟身。待涼後去皮。
2. 將所有材料放入攪拌器,高速攪打一分鐘後試味。如喜歡較辛辣的可加入半條指天椒。將混合物攪打至呈細緻泥狀。撒上裝飾,即成!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bossam: Korean Boiled Pork Belly Wraps | 韓式水煮五花腩生菜包

Most of us would have tried Bossam (보쌈) at a restaurant before, a popular traditional Korean dish consisting of sliced pork belly that is cooked in a seasoned broth and eaten wrapped in leaves along with a variety of condiments. "Ssam" means wrap, and "Bo-ssam" means "wrapped" or "packaged." One theory has it that the word "bossam" evolved from the combination of two letters, 복 bok and 쌈 ssam, where bok means good fortune and together it would mean to wrap good luck in leaves. Now who doesn't like the sound of that?

The centerpiece of Bossam is of course pork belly, a succulent cut of pork that is layered with tender meat, fat, and rind that gives a toothsome chew. The pork is usually simmered for an hour or more in a seasoned broth. Here I am using a Fissler Vitavit® Comfort pressure cooker (2.5L) that not only significantly cuts down on cooking time, but also produces meat that is tantalizingly juicy and infused with remarkable flavor. Although this recipe is specially designed for the pressure cooker, it can also be made without one only with adjustments in cooking duration.

The ingredients used in the seasoned broth are pantry staples in any Korean kitchen: doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste), onions, garlic, ginger, etc. One rather unusual addition is instant coffee - a secret ingredient used among many Korean households in making bossam that is hardly a secret anymore. The coffee helps eliminate the sometimes undesirable porky odor; at the same time, it magically enhances the flavor of the pork without actually tasting a trace of coffee. My recipe here involves a good amount of ingredients - all of which combines to give an intense flavor enough for the pork belly to stand on its own even without any condiments. The aroma of all the spices and ingredients is absolutely sensational - and smells distinctly Korean - so don't forget to take a moment to take a whiff before putting on the lid!

Now, straight out of the cooking broth the pork belly will look somewhat drab - flavorful to say the least, but looking rather plain and nothing out of the ordinary. Boiled meat is what it is; that is what you'll usually be served in a restaurant. But if you are like me, you're gonna want to take the bossam to the next level by taking just one simple extra step. Give the pork belly a quick sear on the pan, and you will get this magnificent golden brown that not only kicks the flavor up a notch but also makes the pork belly that much sexier.

Bossam is typically accompanied with a whole host of condiments and sides. For the wrap itself, it is common to use different lettuces, aromatic perilla leaves (a.k.a. wild sesame leaves), as well as pickled or brined cabbage. Napa cabbage is soaked in salt water for anywhere between thirty minutes up to several hours to soften the leaves while preserving a sweet, tender crunch. Some typical sides and toppings include spicy oyster radish kimchi, fresh kimchi, saewoojeot-jang (salted shrimp sauce), ssamjang (Korean spicy dip for wraps and meats), sliced chilies, and raw or toasted garlic slivers. Incorporate as much as you wish, or keep it simple!

For my recipe for homemade kimchi, please click:
Traditional Korean Napa Cabbage Kimchi (Bae-Chu Kimchi)
For my recipe for kimchi fried rice, please click:
Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)

That said, the ssamjang is indispensable when making any ssam. It is what gives that punch and "pow" to any grilled meats or lettuce wraps. It can be easily be store-bought, yet just as easily homemade with your own seasonings ('coz who needs another thing to take up precious space in my refrigerator?). The recipe is included below! So, are you ready to get cooking? In no time I promise you will find yourself yet another favorite go-to for potluck parties!

What you'll need...
700 g (1.5 lb) fresh pork belly, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, quartered
1 inch ginger, sliced thinly
7 plump garlic cloves
2 white parts of leeks
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang
2 tablespoon rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon instant coffee
4 cups (1 L) water

Cabbage wraps:
1 small napa cabbage
1/4 cup coarse salt
3 cups warm water

1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang
1 tablespoon gochujang
3 garlic cloves, minced
Toasted sesame oil
Spring onion, chopped
Sesame seeds, toasted

1. Prepare the cabbage: dissolve coarse salt in warm water, quarter the cabbage lengthwise and submerge in the salt water. Let soak, flipping every now and then, ensuring that the leaves are completely submerged, 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Rinse and drain well.

2. Combine all broth ingredients in pressure cooker and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add pork belly and return to a boil, observing the maximum capacity level and removing excess liquids if necessary. Then, on medium-high heat, fasten the pressure cooker lid and set the cooking display with traffic light function on level II. Reduce heat to low and set timer for 10 minutes once the green ring becomes visible.

3. When time is up, set the cooker aside to cool until fully depressurized. Unfasten the lid and remove pork belly from the broth. For enhanced flavor and color, continue with this step; otherwise, skip to the next step. Let pork belly rest and drain for several minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and quickly sear the pork belly on both sides until golden brown.

4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Prepare ssamjang by mixing all the ingredients and season to taste. Slice pork belly to desired thickness and arrange on a platter and serve warm with ssamjang, cabbage, various lettuces, perilla leaves, sliced garlic and chilies. Enjoy!!

Note: If using a regular large pot, bring broth ingredients to a boil and add pork belly. Return to a boil then cover pot with a lid and simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size of pork belly.

【 韓式水煮五花腩生菜包 】

新鮮五花腩                       700 克
洋蔥                                   1 隻,開四
                                       1 寸,切片
蒜                                       7 瓣
大蔥(白色部分)             2 根
月桂葉                                2 片
韓國大醬                            1 1/2 湯匙
清酒                                   2 湯匙
紅糖                                   1 湯匙
黑椒原粒                            1 茶匙
即溶咖啡                            1 茶匙
                                        1 公升

旺菜                                    1 小棵
粗鹽                                    50 克
溫水                                    710 毫升

韓國大醬                            1 1/2 湯匙
韓國辣醬                            1 湯匙
蒜蓉                                    3 瓣
麻油                                    適量
蔥花                                    適量
芝麻                                    適量

1. 把粗鹽加入溫水拌勻。旺菜開四,放入鹽水醃最少半小時至兩小時,期間偶然把旺菜翻動。醃好後瀝乾水份備用。醃好的旺菜會軟中帶爽、輕微鹹中帶甜。

2.  把所有燉煮材料放入高速煲,用大火煮滾後放入五花腩。待水滾後蓋上高速鍋蓋,調校至 2 速,用中火煲至見綠環後轉慢火,計時 10 分鐘後熄火。

3. 待指示燈降至原位後小心排放剩餘蒸氣然後開蓋。想更加色香味俱全的話,可以繼續此步驟;否則可跳往下一步。把五花腩拿出來靜置數分鐘。燒熱易潔鍋,用猛火將五花腩兩邊快速煎香至金黃色。

4.  把五花腩靜置 10 分鐘。把沾醬材料拌勻再依個人喜好作調味。將五花腩切片上碟,配以韓國沾肉醬、旺菜、生菜、紫蘇葉、蒜片和辣椒即成!

備註: 不用壓力煲,可依傳統做法 — 只要把所有燉煮材料和五花腩用大火煮滾後收中慢火,蓋上煲子,視乎五花腩大小煮 45 - 60 分鐘。

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Nasu Dengaku: Miso Glazed Eggplant | 日式味噌茄子田楽焼

Eggplants get a bad reputation for being bland, slimy, bitter sometimes and, worst off, they act like sponges that can soak up copious amount of oil. Well, it's time to shatter this myth! I like to see eggplants as a blank canvas ready to take on strong flavors. When cooked to perfection, these gorgeous purple aubergines are just divine - buttery, creamy, with hints of smokiness. And personally, there is no simpler and better way to cook eggplants than this foolproof recipe.

Use either red "awase" or the sweeter white "shiro" miso, or a mix of both
Nasu dengaku (なす田楽) literally translates to miso glazed eggplant, a classic Japanese dish that is usually skewered and grilled over charcoal. The sensational sweet and savory miso glaze livens just about anything, from fish to tofu to daikon radish. Slathered on eggplants, the result is irresistible. It is said that the name dengaku comes from dengaku bōshi (田楽法師), a stilt dancer that performed for the god of rice fields during rice planting. Since skewered tofu resembles the stilted performer, the name dengaku has taken hold since to describe this dish preparation. Forgetting the hassle of operating and cleaning a grill at home, you can easily pan fry the eggplants (with just a teeny bit of oil!) for a few minutes and finish them under a broiler until the miso glaze bubbles and gets that beautiful caramelization.

Watch as the miso glaze bubbles and caramelizes under the broiler... absolutely tantalizing!
An inexpensive, simple dish that makes use of everyday Japanese seasonings
Needless to say, this recipe has entered my repertoire for quick, easy weekday meal ideas. Simply serve with steamed rice, dressed tofu and a light salad for a healthy, plant-based meal or, to jazz things up a bit, serve together with Mentaiko Pasta for a simple, Japanese-inspired lunch!

What you'll need...
2 small eggplants, or 1 Chinese eggplant
Cooking oil
2 tablespoons water
Chopped scallions, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish

For the miso glaze:
3 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon white, brown, or coconut sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake

1. Prepare the miso glaze by whisking together the ingredients.

2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and score the flesh with a knife. In a non-stick pan over medium high heat, add oil (I like to use a pastry brush directly on the eggplants for a more even coating) and cook the eggplants flesh-side down. Once browned, flip the eggplants over and cook until begin to soften. Tip in water and cook covered on high heat till the water cooks off, about one minute.

3. Transfer eggplants to a lined baking tray flesh side up, brush evenly with miso glaze, and place in the oven with the broiler function on. Grill for 8-10 minutes, until the miso glaze caramelizes. Remove from oven, garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions, and you're done!

【 日式茄子味噌田樂燒 】


茄子                  2 小隻
味噌                  3 湯匙
砂糖或紅糖     1 湯匙
                  1 湯匙
清酒                  1 湯匙
                      2 湯匙
蔥花                 適量
芝麻                 適量

1. 把味噌、糖、味醂和清酒拌勻備用。
2. 茄子對邊切開,用小刀𠝹十字面,讓醬汁更輕易入味。
3. 燒熱易潔鍋,下油並以中高火煎香茄子至輕微焦香。
4. 把茄子反轉,繼續煎數分鐘。
5. 加入 2 湯匙水,蓋上鍋蓋煮至水份完全蒸發,約一分鐘。
6. 把茄子放在鋪好烘培紙的烘盤上,塗上味噌醬汁,再放入焗爐以上層發熱線烤焗 8 - 10 分鐘至茄子軟稔、醬汁輕微烤焦。最後,撒上芝麻和蔥花,完成! 

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Savory Chilled Tofu with Century Egg | 涼拌尖椒皮蛋豆腐

Some call it century egg, others call it the thousand-year-old egg, or millennium egg. In Hong Kong, it is simply known as pei-daan. However you call it, this most certainly isn't the ordinary egg you'd poach, scramble, or fry with.

Enveloped inside a translucent, soy-sauce colored, gelatinous egg "white" is a soft, gooey, greenish-black yolk - the ghastly color of gloom, one may say. The bouncy jelly-like exterior may not taste much of anything, but the dark center has the texture and sharpness of very ripe Camembert - creamy, pungent, with a heady, palpable whiff of ammonia. (Think your cat's urine. You get the picture.) Century eggs come covered in clay and rice hulls which, coupled with its somewhat misnomer of a name, does for a second appear like some dinosaur fossil excavated from an archeological expedition.

It is no wonder the century egg has proudly made appearance on TV shows like Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods and Fear Factor, the daredevil game show where contestants were once pitted against each other devouring and gagging on whole eggs alone.

So what is a century egg anyway? Long story short, the century egg is a preserved egg, most often a duck egg, sometimes chicken, or even quail, cured in a mixture of ash, quicklime, clay, salt, and rice hulls for a period time between several weeks to months. It happens to be an age-old Chinese delicacy that is oh-so-yummy when smartly paired with something else, not unlike Roquefort complemented with a glass of Sauternes.

In Hong Kong, the century egg is most often seen in the ubiquitous breakfast congee (rice porridge) cooked with lean pork, or encased in pastry with sweet bean paste and a touch of ginger. In restaurants, it is frequently served as an amuse-bouche alongside paper-thin slices of pickled young ginger, or as a side dish smothered in a savory blend of chili, garlic, and herbs. The trick is to enjoy the century egg in small bits along with other flavors and textures, lest you'd probably gag on eating the whole thing plain.

Century eggs take on strong flavors well and pairs exceptionally well with tofu for a contrast in textures. Here we have a typical household recipe that many families keep with minor variations. One thing absolutely in common is that there are no skills involved whatsoever and the entire dish practically comes together in under 15 minutes. It celebrates a melange of flavors and textures - from the silkiness of chilled tofu, the juxtaposition of chewiness and creaminess of century egg (and its odor), the heat of peppers, and the sweet and savoriness of the sauce. Some would also top the dish with dried pork floss. Opt for either sugar or honey for the sweet element - I prefer honey for its floral hint and consistency. The resulting dish makes for a simple, classic side dish, ideal for the sweltering heat of summer!

What you'll need...
2 century eggs
1 block (400 g) silken tofu
2 Chinese long green peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bird's-eye chili, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon oyster sauce*
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cooking oil
Spring onion, chopped
Cilantro, chopped

Note: For a vegetarian option, substitute with vegetarian "oyster" mushroom sauce.

1. Peel century eggs and rinse with water. Cut into half-inch dice. (Have a glass of warm water ready while dicing the eggs - dip the knife in and wipe off with paper towel each time after slicing to avoid a gunky mess.)

2. De-seed long green peppers, remove pith and finely chop. In a nonstick pan, heat oil on medium heat. Sauté diced green peppers for 1-2 minutes. Add minced garlic and chili, cook until fragrant then lower heat. Stir in oyster sauce, soy sauce and honey. Season to taste, then set aside and allow to cool slightly.

3. Drain tofu, slice and arrange on a platter. Layer diced century egg on top and drizzle sauce mixture over. Sprinkle with spring onion and cilantro. Enjoy!

- Press tofu with paper towel to extract excessive water content. If time allows, return tofu to the fridge for an hour before assembling.
- If pressed for time, skip the cooking process and mix the chopped peppers and garlic with the sauce ingredients and pour over tofu and century egg. Watch out for garlic breath though!

【 涼拌尖椒皮蛋豆腐 】

皮蛋                           2 隻
盒裝蒸煮滑豆腐     1 盒
青尖椒                       2 條
蒜頭                           2 瓣
指天椒                      1 隻
蠔油                           1 湯匙
生抽                           2 茶匙
蜜糖                           1 湯匙
芫荽                           適量

1. 皮蛋
2. 蒜瓣剁碎。尖椒和辣椒分別去囊去籽再切細粒備用。蔥和芫荽切粒。
3. 開中慢火,易潔鍋入面下少許油,油熱後先放尖椒碎兜炒約 1 – 2 分鐘至出味,然後加入蒜末和辣椒碎略為炒勻。
4. 調到慢火,倒入蠔油、生抽和蜜糖拌勻再作適當調味即可關火。稍微放涼備用。
5. 滑豆腐擠出多餘水份後切片。鋪上皮蛋粒、淋上煮好的醬汁、再撒上蔥花和芫荽即成!喜歡的話,更可加肉鬆!

1. 滑豆腐擠乾水份後 , 放入大碗內蓋上保鮮紙放入冰箱冷藏1小時,效果更佳。

2. 如不想開爐火,可以免卻炒尖椒、辣椒及蒜頭的步驟,直接跟醬汁拌勻再淋在豆腐和皮蛋上。個人認為用炒的方法比較香及好吃,且能避免生蒜所引起的「口氣」。

[Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]