Recipe: Yong Tau Foo

Mdm Eileen Chin has been cooking since she was a child. It used to be a chore that fell upon her, just as it would have on the daughters of other Chinese families, but after she got married, Mdm Chin gladly did it for her husband and three kids. One of her specialties is Hakka Yong Tau Fu – a variety of bean curds, like tofu and tau pok, stuffed with a mixture of minced meat and fish paste. The 60-year-old learnt the dish from her mother, who made it on every Chinese New Year’s eve. On that day, the employees at her father’s medicinal hall would join them for reunion dinner.

During the sixties, it was common for the towkays to show appreciation to their employees by treating them to a dinner. There were hundreds of beancurds to prepare, and Mdm Chin was made to stuff the meat into every one of them. Until today, Yong Tau Fu reminds her of this dreadful chore. But there was one Yong Tau Fu making session that was particularly memorable for Mdm Chin. Leading up to the festive period, her family would receive many cans of abalone as gifts. One year, her housemaid got creative with the expensive ingredient. She stuffed the remaining fillings between two slices of abalones and steamed them. They were, as it turned out, “impossible to chew”. Mdm Chin and her sister threw away the abalone and ate only the minced meat. “We got into serious trouble with our mother,” she said.

Nowadays, Mdm Chin hardly cooks Yong Tau Fu as it takes at least three hours to get it done. Besides, there’s no one at home to eat it. Now that her daughters are married and her son hardly comes home to eat after work, she has switched from cooking three dishes and one soup for dinner to the time-saving grilled chicken with salad. Yong Tau Fu is only made upon special request, not by anyone, but her children.

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For those who work late and have no ready dinner at home, we recommend you store some Kimchi in the fridge. The versatile fermented vegetable could be cooked with rice, made into soup with pre-packed stock, beef and tofu, or added into Korean instant noodles to spice it up – all in less than half an hour. It is a refreshing and spicy awakener that can be kept for up to three months.

Two weeks ago, I made about eight kilos of Kimchi, entirely from scratch. It was my second time after picking it up at the Korean Tourism Board. The procedure may be tedious but the final product is likely to turn out like what it should be, unlike Nian Gao or Beef Wellington. So here is a very detailed Kimchi recipe together with the simple instruction to cook Kimchi Fried Rice.

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Singapore-style Pesto Pasta

pesto pasta

A few months ago I was invited to a media event and there Chef Willin Low taught us how to make his rendition of Pesto Pasta. Besides the usual suspects like basil and parmesan cheese, he also added laksa leaves, salted fish and dried shrimp.

What I love most about the recipe is that there’s not specific quantity. Chef Low left it to us to concoct our own preferred flavours…


Garlic, chopped
Laksa leaves
Chinese parsley
Salted fish
Dried shrimps
Pine nuts or Sunflower seeds
Bird’s eye chilli
Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice


Blend everything except the noodles and lemon juice until smooth.

Cook the pasta and set aside the leftover water.

Heat up a pan and add some olive oil. Fry some chopped garlic. Throw in your favourite seafood and then the pesto paste. Add 2 tbsp of the leftover pasta water and use your spatula to loosen up the paste.

Add the cooked spaghetti, mix well with the sauce and then turn off the fire.

Squeeze lemon juice over and  serve hot.

Oxtail Stew

oxtail stew

2 tbsp cooking oil
1 bulb garlic, chopped
30 g old ginger, sliced
1 tbsp grounded black pepper
750 g or 4 medium-size pieces of oxtail
3 tbsp oyster sauce
pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar
280 g carrots, peeled and cubed
280 g large onions, peeled and cubed
400 g potatoes, peeled and cubed
250 g celery, cut into bite size
170 g tomato paste
600 ml water
200 ml red wine


1. Heat pot, add oil, garlic and ginger and pepper. Stir-fry until fragrant.

2. Add oxtail and stir-fry for another 3 mins.

3. Lower heat to medium, add oyster sauce, salt, and sugar and cook for 5 mins.

4. Add carrots, onions, potatoes, tomato paste, water, and red wine.

5. Allow mixture to boil and then turn down the heat. Leave to simmer for another 2 to 3 hours, depending on how soft you want your oxtail.

8. Serve with baguette or rice.