In Malaysia, fish heads are frequently used in curries and in stock for noodle soup. I know, some of you would probably feel squeamish about eating fish heads but according to the Chinese elderly, fish heads are actually very nutritious, especially the eyeballs. They believe that eating the fish eyeball will improve one’s vision. I’m not sure how true is that but it doesn’t matter to me. It being nutritious is not the reason I like it. I enjoy fish heads mainly because they are so flavorful. This is especially true for salmon fish head due to its high fat content. Malaysians love their fish head and this is why it is super expensive back home. Fortunately for us, not many people in Australia knows how to appreciate fish head and therefore it is quite cheap here.
Fish head bee hoon is a very comforting dish and it is great in cold weather. The soup is extremely appetizing with slight sourish taste from the pickled mustard green and tomato. The stock has a really nice aroma as the fish head pieces are deep fried first before they are boiled in the water.
Jiaozi is a Chinese dumpling and it is a hot favorite among Chinese households. Jiaozi can be steamed, boiled, or pan fried. The pan fried version is known as guotie (pot stickers) or gyoza in Japan. As the name implies, the dumpling stuck slightly to the wok at the end of cooking but it could be easily removed by nudging it using a spatula.
While jiaozi filling commonly consists of meat and/or vegetables, there’s no limit to what you can add in it. You can make the filling with the ingredients you like/have on hand. Both taste and textures are very important in dumpling making. For me, I love to add shitake mushrooms, carrots, and wombok leaves together with the mince pork to produce different textures (bitey and crunchy). The filling smells and taste wonderful with the addition of seasonings such as sesame oil, shaoxing wine, good quality soy sauce, grated ginger, and garlic. The wrapper and wrapping style for guotie is different from deep fried wontons. Guotie wrappers are white in color, round-shaped, and thicker compared to wonton wrappers. My first jiaozi attempt which was 3 years ago was unsuccessful and I ended up with disintegrated dumplings as I did not seal the dumpling properly. Make sure you pinch the edges of the dumpling firmly so that they won’t break apart when cooking.
Crispy skin on the bottom and tenderly soft skin on the top.
Are you a fan of claypot chicken rice? I know I AM! For those of you who have no idea what it is, allow me to enlighten you. 🙂 Basically, it is a combination of marinated chicken pieces, shitake mushrooms, and rice cooked in a claypot over high flames and right before it is served, an egg is cracked over the rice and sprinkled with salted fish. I’m feeling hungry already by just describing it. Haha, greedy me! 😛
Claypot chicken rice is easily obtainable anywhere in Penang, Malaysia. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Australia especially in Geelong. But that won’t stop me from enjoying my favorite food. If I crave it, cook it I shall!
Cooking the dish in a claypot will produce a layer of crispy bits at the bottom of the pan and this gives the dish a great charred flavor. This charred flavor together with the egg and fragrant salted fish are just amazing! (Mmm!~~ ) Sadly, I do not have a claypot so I’ll just have to make do with what I’ve got, a microwavable pot or a rice cooker. Although cooking it this way does not give you the amazing crispy charred bits, it still taste delicious especially when serving with good quality salted fish. This dish is a great one pot dish for those lazy days as it is very simple to cook. It is important to get the right balance of saltiness in this dish. After some trial and error, this is the final recipe that I’m happy with.
Salted fish brought in from Penang by Mr. D’s mom. Salted fish sold in asian groceries stores in Melbourne is super expensive and not as fresh looking as the ones back home.
Soaked shitake musrooms. Do not throw away the soaking liquid as it is used to enhance the rice flavor.
Golden brown salted fish.
Make sure to stir fry the rice and all of the ingredients evenly in the wok before transferring to the rice cooker or microwavable pot.