No Frill Cooking: Japanese Curry, using Vermont Curry Bricks

If I had to name two cuisines that are not home to Singapore, yet have taken Singapore by storm, it would have to be Japanese and Korean. Between the two, I would say that Japanese cuisine has been popular here for a longer time – we are no strangers to sushi, tempura, katsu curry and other popular Japanese dishes. But Korean cuisine has been picking up in terms of popularity here, too, especially with the hit of the Hallyu wave in most Asian countries these few years. Korean BBQ, bibimbap (a mixed rice dish), bingsu (a Korean shaved ice dessert) – these are just a few names of the most popular dishes. The more adventurous have ventured further, to dishes perhaps popular among Koreans, but as known to foreigners, such as naengmyun (buckwheat noodles in a cold tangy broth), and dwenjangchigae (fermented bean paste stew).

As diverse as the cuisine is here in Singapore – we really can’t complain about the variety we have here, so readily at hand, too – I cannot say that it comes cheap. Specialty cuisines like this are rather pricey if you’re looking for those with good quality, or are at least somewhat authentic. I once ate a $5.50 bowl of ‘noodles in Kimchi stew’ at a food court, and boy was it disappointing.  The broth tasted nothing like kimchi, and resembled the soup base of a Chinese hotpot. You pay for what you get. is a lesson I learnt. I had similar experiences with Jap curry as well, although not as bad. At most places, they do taste decent. But the price per portion comes close to $10 every time, and is not really a cost-effective meal if the whole family goes (my dad eats a lot). My mum’s frugal personality also doesn’t like the idea of spending so much money eating out, especially on food she doesn’t think is worth the price. So my solution? Try it outside myself, and if I like it, I learn to cook it at home! #filial

jap curry

—This is the part where I actually start to talk about the recipe.–

I can’t remember why I decided to cook Japanese curry on Sunday, but I did. I found the Vermont Curry Bricks (230g) in Medium Hot at FairPrice Finest in JCube. For this recipe, I used half the box (the equivalent of 6 bricks). It turned out great – a delicious, thick sauce with meat and potato chunks. A huge portion too, perfect for my family.

Disclaimer: This is not Katsu curry (the one with the fried pork cutlet) . I’d try to make that, but my sister’s taking her O Levels right now, and I wouldn’t be the brightest bulb if I decided that it would be a good idea to feed her friend cutlet a few days before her Oral exam. This is one is made with chunks of pork shoulder. Less oil, and less dishes to wash!

Japanese Curry with Pork Chunks

Feeds 4 very hungry people, or 6 normal people

Ingredients

  • 800g pork shoulder or chicken thighs, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 6 bricks of Vermont Curry, chopped into small pieces
  • 850ml water
  • Cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Put a pan on medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Brown the meat cubes on all sides, no need to cook through.
  2. Remove browned meat and set aside.
  3. Using the same pan, add 1 tbsp more of oil. Allow the oil to become warm, then add in onions. Sautee for 5 minutes.
  4. Add in finely diced carrot, minced garlic, and ginger. Sautee for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in 850ml of water to de-glaze the pan. Allow it to come to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, with the lid on.
  6. Add in the roughly chopped potatoes, and 1 grated apple. Cover to simmer for anoter 10 minutes.
  7. At this point, dump in the meat. Simmer for 10 more minutes with the lid on.
  8. Turn off the burner. Add in your chopped up curry bricks. Stir to dissolve.
  9. When fully dissolved, turn the burner back on. With the lid on, let the sauce boil and thicken for a final 10 minutes.
  10. Serve with hot rice, and get fat!
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No Frill Baking: Cheesecake Brownies

Today my bestie OWS stopped by my house, and together we made some fantastic cheesecake brownies.

As we speak, the brownies are now chilling in the fridge (they are supposed to be chilled overnight before serving), but when we had a sneak taste just now, they were pretty darn good. So I guess it’s safe to say that it was a success, although I’ll still be updating you guys tomorrow with the final verdict!

Recipe was adapted from the baking master Joy of Baking. She has both a YouTube channel and her own website, that you can check out here! I adjusted the recipe to use more convenient ingredients/quantities, so that there I’m not left with an awkward half-empty container of cream cheese or butter that will probably be left forgotten.

Cheesecake Brownies 
Original recipe can be found here.

This is my adapted version.

Brownie Layer:
113g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
115g bittersweet chocolate chips
125g granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
65g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cheesecake Layer:
250g cream cheese
50g granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Extra chocolate chips

To make brownie layer:

  1. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and butter.
  2. Once melted, take the bowl off the boiler. Add in the granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Leave the mixture to cool until lukewarm. (Stick a finger in to gauge the temperature). Then, add in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. At this point, sift the flour and pour it in. Mix well and ensure that there are no lumps.
  5. Deposit the brownie mixture into your baking pan, and make sure to spread it well so that it forms an even layer.

To make cheesecake layer:

  1. Beat your cream cheese with a whisk, until creamy. (Tip: If your cream cheese is too hard, use a fork to smash it down and soften it first, then switch to a whisk.)
  2. Incorporate the granulated sugar well. Make sure not to over mix – your cream cheese mixture should not be too runny.
  3. Now, add in your egg. Mix well.
  4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over your brownie layer. Then, carefully spread it out with the back of a spoon so that it covers the top layer completely.
  5. Decorate the top of your cheesecake layer with the extra chocolate chips!
  6. Put your baking pan into a preheated oven at 160C, for 25-30 minutes. You know that it’s done when the cheesecake layer turns slightly golden.
  7. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results!

***Tip for Singaporeans***:
We all know that cream cheese is really expensive here. If you want to make this without breaking the bank, there is a decently priced cream cheese sold in NTUC FairPrice at $5.80 for 250g. What’s even better, is that it’s on offer now, at $5.15. (Offer ends 30 June). It’s called Kraft Light Phila Cream Cheese (250g round tub). Click here for the link to the listed product on the FairPrice online store.

That said, because this is a light cream cheese, do note that it might not taste as rich as desired because the original recipe by Joy Of Baking specifically asked for full fat cream cheese. I personally think this lighter cream cheese tastes perfectly alright, and will be more suitable especially if you have older Asian parents at home who might be not accustomed to a heavier palette.

Happy baking!

Edit: Tried it today, a little too sweet for my liking. I cut down the sugar in the recipe above.

No Frill Cooking: Thai Basil Chicken (a spin-off)

For those of you that don’t know, I really enjoy cooking.

It’s one of those longstanding hobbies that has a very real reward at the end – a great dish or dessert that I can stuff my face with. No need for a four-month wait to see my scarf finally taking shape, or maybe an even less tangible reward in the form of a ‘revitalized spirit’ (or whatever that is supposed to mean).

Last week, I wanted to try making Thai Basil Chicken. Too bad I had neither the basil nor the chicken. So I made Thai Basil Chicken Without The Chicken and The Basil. It came out pretty damn good the first time, if I say so myself. Yesterday I made it again, tweaking the recipe – cranking up spice level, making the sauce less salty, and adding vegetables to make this a more balanced one-pot meal for the family.

Here I present to you the recipe. If you haven’t noticed, it is in no way authentic, and nor do I claim to know anything about cooking, or even Thai cuisine for that matter. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. Now, without further ado…

Thai Basil Chicken (ish) – Without The Basil and The Chicken

To serve 4 people, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 800g pork shoulder, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 capsicums, chopped roughly
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy suace
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 5 dried chillis
  • 3-4 shallots
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Finely mince the garlic, dried chillies and shallots. (A food processor will make the job easier, but a pestal and mortar will work fine as well.)
  2. In a wok, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add in the minced mixture and stir fry until aromatic, or when garlic turns golden.
  3. At this point, add in your chopped up pork, and brown the meat. This should take around 5 minutes.
  4. Dump in your chopped veges. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine these ingredients to make your sauce: light soy, dark soy, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and water. Pour the sauce into the wok.
  6. Coat the pork and veges evenly with the sauce, then put the lid on. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Make sure to check on it occasionally so that it doesn’t burn!)
  7. After which, check if the sauce is of the correct consistency. The sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce is still too runny, cook for a bit longer to let the excess water evaporate.
  8. Once done, serve immediately with piping hot white rice.

Viola, you’re done!