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New Year Chin chow

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New Year Chin chow

Here’s wishing everyone a fabulous 2019! No doubt you are still recovering from the madness of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. In Singapore, an even bigger celebration is about to take place - Chinese New Year!

All around Singapore hang red lanterns, stalls selling tiny red envelopes and paper offerings and retailers with food hampers containing fresh fruit, mandarins and dried mushrooms. It is a time for feasting and family, with the New Year’s feast menu featuring bottomless servings of Chinese herbal soups and bakkwa as well as Chinese desserts like steamed rice glutinous rice cake called Nian Gao and pineapple tarts. All to usher in a new year of prosperity and wellness.

Interestingly, in Traditional Chinese medicine there is an age old belief that the body has an internal temperature or energy known as Qi. The Chinese believe that finding a way to balance the Yin (Cold) and Yang (Hot) energies within our bodies can cure chronic ailments and sickness. So, by looking at the nutritional properties of certain foods, the Chinese have categorised each food into Warm, Cold and Neutral foods. With an understanding of our bodies and symptoms, food is then used to cure any imbalances.

The worldwide recognition and acceptance of Chinese medicine and its properties led us to consider and reflect upon the importance of traditional Aboriginal Australian medicines and herbs. Notably, to think about the spiritual healers within our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Ngangkari healers of the APY lands in South Australia, for example, are healers through family descent who pass on their knowledge from generation to generation.* Similar to Chinese medicine, the focus is on treating the spirit balance within the body. Unfortunately, Australia does not officially recognise the importance of Aboriginal traditional medicine and, in fact, South Australia is the only state where the Ngangkari healers work in collaboration with the mainstream health system.

As our time in Singapore draws to a close, we thought it fitting to experiment with a well-known Chinese dessert but with our own RiverMint twist, to pay our respects to the medicinal qualities inherent in native Australian herbs. And what is more refreshing and cooling during a hot Australian summer’s day than Iced Chin Chow tea?!

In Singapore, you can find grass jelly or Chin Chow in every supermarket in the fridge section ready to eat in packet or can form. Chin Chow is a jelly made with the leaves of the Mesona Chinensis plant, a member of the mint family. Often served with honey, soy milk or a sugar syrup, it is eaten after a meal to aid with digestion and heartburn. The jelly is also used in traditional milk teas or ‘bubble tea’.

Using native lemongrass, rivermint and eucalyptus to infuse our jelly, here is our unique RiverMint Chin Chow Iced tea recipe. We hope you enjoy making it and sipping on it over the hot months ahead.

Happy Chinese New Year and Chin Chin…….. or should we say ‘Chin Chow!’

* NOTE: To learn more about the place of Aboriginal traditional medicine in Australia visit the Creative Spirits website.

RiverMint Chin Chow Iced Tea (Serves 4)

For the tea

20g native rivermint sprigs

2 x green tea bags

4 cups boing water

100ml almond or macadamia milk, heated but not boiled

Raw sugar

For the jelly

20 native lemongrass strands

3 sprigs native rivermint, leaves picked

1 drop Essentially Australia Eucalyptus Blue Gum essential oil

2 litres water

8 tbsp tapioca flour

1 tsp agar agar powder + 4 tbsp water

  1. Steep green tea bags and native river mint sprigs in boiling water. Check for taste until desired strength is met. You may need to remove the green tea bags before the mint sprigs to get a nice balance. Add milk and sugar to desired sweetness until fully dissolved. Refrigerate until chilled.

  2. Place lemongrass and river mint strands and leaves in the water and bring to boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer with lid on for 45 mins until it is very fragrant. Turn off heat, add eucalyptus oil and allow to infuse for up to 3 hrs until the water is cool. Strain liquid. (There should be about 500ml liquid remaining after this process).

  3. Reserve half of the liquid and mix this gradually with the tapioca starch until it is paste like, strain through a wire strainer.

  4. Mix agar agar powder with 4 tbsp boiling water and boil whisking until it dissolves completely and turns into a paste.

  5. Bring the remaining reserved liquid back up to the boil and gradually add the agar paste and then add the tapioca flour paste into the liquid. Strain again, skim the top and pour into a small square tin lined with cling film. Allow to set at room temperature then transfer to fridge. Cut into squares.

  6. Take serving glasses and fill quarter full with ice, add two chin chow squares and top up with the milk tea. Serve with a long spoon, a straw and a mint sprig.


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Emu Bao

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Emu Bao

Pau or Bao, is a staple food throughout Asia, and a particular favourite for Singaporeans. From hawkers markets, to well-known Dim Sum restaurants and small convenience stores, fresh bao can contain many different fillings for that quick snack or as the star of a lunch time platter.

Interestingly, when you see bao buns sitting in big bamboo steamers or lined up in small cabinets in Singapore, they have different coloured dots on the top of them. It is intriguing, this colour coding of doughy goodness, and extremely organised. For those of you trying to decode the numerous bao buns on offer throughout Singapore, this is what we have tasted: the Char Siew Pork meat bao (red dot); the Vegetable bao (green dot); the curried chicken bao (dark orange dot); the Yam bao (light yellow dot); and the bao filled with red bean paste which has no dot at all!

But probably one of our favourites is the larger round meat bao, gorgeously rich and tender, with a flavour that fills the mouth and makes you want more. So, we thought, why not try a fresh steamed bao bun with some delicious Australian game meat? Maybe Kangaroo or even Emu?

Here is a relatively easy recipe that brings together the light and springy Chinese bao dough with slowly braised Australian Emu shank, infused with native Australian spices. Give it a try to really impress people at your next Asian inspired dinner party.

EMU BAO

For the Emu filling:

5 Emu drums (or 1.5kg)

Handful of dry native lemongrass

Ten dried pepperberries, crushed

2 sprigs native thyme

5 riberries

3 tbsp chilli bean paste

1ltr game stock

200ml red wine

2tbsp dark soy

1tbsp hoisin

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

2 cloves garlic, whole

  1. Take emu drums, trip off excess sinew, rub with crushed pepper berries and chilli paste and place in a glass dish. Cover with wine, herbs and the cooled stock. Marinate overnight. Remove drums, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Retain the marinade liquid.

  2. Take a roasting pan and heat the oil. Saute the onion and celery, add the garlic cloves and colour the emu drums nicely. Pour over the retained marinade liquid (add more stock if necessary to completely cover the emu) and simmer slightly over heat.

  3. Cover roasting tin with foil and place in preheated oven at 160 degrees. Cook for 3 hours or until meat falls off the bone.

  4. Combine the honey, soy sauce, hoisin, rice wine vinegar in a pan, simmer and reduce slightly to a thickened sauce.

  5. Remove meat from the emu drums and chopped. Take remaining braising liquid, strain through fine muslin, then place in pan and reduce until thick. Add the soy sauce mixture to this sauce and check for flavour and seasoning.

  6. Combine the sauce with the emu meat, ready to fill the buns.

For the Bao Dough:

550g all-purpose flour or bao flour (this can be found at asian supermarkets)

100g cornstarch

5gr dry yeast

3 tbsp white sugar

300ml warm milk

1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp groundnut oil

1/2 tsp pepperberry, ground

  1. Mix together the flour, 2 tbsp sugar and cornstarch.

  2. Combine the milk, remaining sugar and yeast. Let sit for 15 minutes until the yeast activates and foams. Add this to the flour mixture slowly until combined.

  3. Add oil and vinegar to mix and bring together into a dough with hands.

  4. Put in stand mixer with dough hook and allow to knead for for 10 minutes until it is smooth and springy to the touch. If kneading by hand, this can take up to twelve minutes.

  5. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise, just like bread, in a warm place for up to an hour until it has doubled in size.

  6. Punch down dough to remove all the air bubbles and then shape into smooth balls (20-30 depending on the portion size desired). Indent and make a large hole in the middle of the dough and push out the sides to form a small, even-sided bowl shape. Fill with 1 tbsp of emu meat mix, then wrap the edges around the filling so that they meet at the top (like putting something in a bag and gathering it at the top with an elastic band). Take the gathers at the top in one hand and with the other at the base of the bun ball, twist slightly to create the signature bao puckering at the top.

  7. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper and into a bamboo steamer. Allow to proof again in a warm place until the dough springs back slightly when touched and place steamer basket on top of pain of boiling water. Steam for 12 minutes.

Tips:

  • Don’t overproof the dough as this will lead the buns to go wrinkly and to collapse.

  • When the buns are finished steaming, slight open the lid and allow them to sit in the steamer basket for 6 more minutes before taking lid off fully - this will stop them from collapsing also.

  • You can also make these by braising kangaroo tails in the same way.

  • Serve these buns with the traditional condiments of oyster or plum sauce or try with our Pickled Native Ginger and Quandong dipping sauce for that extra Australian flavour (coming up in our next blog post).

Interesting Fact:

Did you know that the female Emu makes a very cool, deep drumming sound? Since we are using Emu drums in this recipe we thought this was kinda neat! Check it out


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The Elusive Blue Quandong - Adventures in Singapore

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The Elusive Blue Quandong - Adventures in Singapore

Isn’t this fruit gorgeous? Exploring South East Asia sure brings with it some very special finds. Who would have thought we would find Blue Quandong in the middle of a garden city like Singapore.

Elaeocarpus Angustifolius, known in India and South East Asia as the Marble Tree, is also referred to as the Blue Quandong. Native also to the tropical rainforests of northern Queensland, the wood of this rainforest tree is highly valuable and utilised in furniture and boat building. These deep blue, almost perfectly round, fruits have a sour taste and work great in tarts and jams. Though, we think presenting these beauties simply halved on a plate with some vanilla ice cream is perfect enough! The seeds are commonly polished and used in jewellery such as Hindu prayer necklaces called Rudraksha. In Australia, they are often used in seed jewellery, like that made by one of our favourite social enterprises of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council , the Tjanpi Desert Weavers

As many of you may have noticed, RiverMint Dining is currently working between Perth and Singapore. Although our bookings have been limited in Perth, we are doing plenty of culinary research and workshops in Singapore. It is our hope that upon return to normal operations in 2019, we will be able to bring new skills and inspiration to our pop up events and catering options. 

Singapore is world-renowned for its food scene. Think of a cuisine and you are sure to find it in this small but vibrant island country. Food here is a national obsession and a uniting link between the various cultures that make up its population. Go to a local hawker's market and the main ethnic groups are represented - Malaysian, Peranakan, Chinese, Kristang, Indonesian and Indian. Eating at a local hawker's market or shopping mall food hall is generally the most popular pastime. Dishes like Haianese Chicken and rice, Chilli Crab, Roti Prata, carrot cake (made with eggs not carrot!) and Laksa are just the start of an enormous repertoire. It is our hope that we can glean new inspiration here whilst in the process learning how to meld food cultures and preserve the integrity and simplicity of an ingredient.

Keep watch for our next blog post where we present a new Asian influenced kangaroo recipe!

 

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