Ever since moving to our new home, I’ve been experimenting with recipes and whipping up dishes (probably delivering a few disasters now and then too haha) more than ever. ‘My kitchen’ as what I affectionately call it, is my favourite part of the house where I spend most time in everyday.
I tried to cook Tau Yu Bak one day with some online recipe I found but I didn’t like it because of the slightly overpowering taste of spices. I happened to chit-chat with my maternal grandmother some days later when she popped over to visit and she happily shared her recipe of the same dish after I commented that my first try of the dish was a failure.
Funny thing was, I didn’t quite get Grandma’s recipe in clear details. You know how grandmothers often agak-agak (estimate) the amount of ingredients? Haha. Most of the time, Grandma said in half Teochew-half Mandarin ’50 cents of 5-spices’, ‘南姜不要太大片’, some ‘chang mao’ (lemongrass in Teochew), etc. I was like, what the heck is 南姜?
For a noob cook like me, I just wasn’t familiar with the different types of ginger out there. So after scribbling everything down on my notebook, I tried to make sense of the ingredients by doing some online research, finding pictures of the ingredients I wanted then headed to the market to look around and reconfirming with stall owners if what I got was correct before I made my purchase.
Sounds like a big hassle? Not at all. I feel there is so much to learn about cooking that everytime I do a new dish, it’s a whole new experience so what I am going to do from now on my blog is to share tips and tricks in the kitchen (that I learn through trials and errors) and of course share tried and tested recipes (definitely palatable!).
In my recipe below, I’ve indicated ‘1 packet of 5-spices’ under the list of ingredients. These spices in pre-packed form can be bought from dried good stalls at the market or provision shops and minimarts. Each packet consists of 1 cinnamon stick (halved), 2 star anise, 2 cardamons and 12 cloves. If you have the different spices ready, then there is no need to buy the 5-spice packet separately for this.
I like to cook this dish earlier in the day so the ingredients sit in the sauce for hours before I serve it for dinner. Leaving overnight in the fridge works well too. In fact, it would be the most ideal because you can skim off the surface fats (coagulated when chilled) and the braising sauce really penetrate the meat nicely.
Grandma said the secret to this Tau Yu Bak Recipe is the caramelisation of sugar at the beginning as that really gives the braising sauce body so please be careful not to burn it.
- 2 bulbs garlic
- 20g galangal, peeled
- 30g ginger, peeled
- 1 tbsp white peppercorn
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 stalks lemongrass (use side of knife to bruise stalks slightly)
- 1 packet of 5-spices* (place in soup pouch for easy removal later)
- 700g pork belly, cut into thick pieces & blanched in hot water to remove any scum
- 14 pcs dried Japanese shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, stems removed
- 5 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
- 300g firm tofu (tau kwa), cut into bite-size cubes
- 1.2 litre of hot water (actual amount depends on the size of your pot, so adjust accordingly to ensure all ingredients are covered in water)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp palm sugar