Monday, June 3, 2013

Char Kueh Kak - Malaysian Fried Rice Cake

Comfort food is a funny thing. It can be something that you don't find easily these days or just plain accessible at the grocery store. Whatever it is, there is something about this comfort food which brings us back to childhood. Ah....those happy times where you have no worries in the world, where the only crisis in your life is whether mom and dad did get you what you want for birthday or Christmas.

Having moved from Malaysia to the States some years back, my definition of comfort food is definitely something which I cannot find at any grocery store here. Every now and then, a candy from yesteryear will pop up at some Asian grocery stores near my house. But that just won't do cos unlike many children my age at the time, I have never develop a sweet tooth. My kinda comfort food have always been savory in nature, call me weird.

One of them is Char Kueh Kak. If you are from Malaysia, and have either live in Kuala Lumpur or Penang, you will know exactly what I mean. No, not the stir fried radish cake you can get a dim sum place cos those are radish cake. A true blue char kueh kak you can find in a roadside eatery is made out of nothing more than plain rice cake stir fried with preserved cabbage, beansprouts, chives/scallions, and an egg. They probably use a ton of dark soy sauce to give it that glistening dark color, and yes, they use pork lard to stir fry that tasty concoction.

Should you have anything against pork fat, stop reading right now. I mean, now.

To make a true blue KL/Penang hawker style Char Kueh Kak, you will need to make your homemade rendered pork fat with the crispy bits. No, your primary care physician and cardiologist should not know about this. Heck, my primary care physician will probably fire an array of reasons on why I should not eat this. Whatever he doesn't know, won't hurt him, right?

Truly, he can't say a thing about my minuscule consumption of pork lard to make this dish when he himself is a deep fried chicken fanatic?

To make the authentic Char Kueh Kak I so love as a child, there are some works involved. Rest assure, all your hard work shall be duly rewarded if you follow this recipe. I promise!

Malaysian Homemade Char Kueh Kak
(Adapted from Minty's Kitchen)

For the Kueh
110g Rice Flour
2 Tbsp Tapioca Starch
1 Tbsp Wheat Starch
1/2 cup of cold water
1 1/2 cup of boiling water
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt

For the Char Kueh Kak
3 Tbsp Rendered Pork Fats
3-4 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp Garlic Chilli Sauce
2 Cups Beansprouts
2 Stalks Scallions
A handful of chives
1 Tbsp Preserved cabbage (Chai poh)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Make the kueh. Preheat a steamer filled with water half way. Let the water come up to a rolling boil and turn the heat down to medium low.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all the kueh ingredients except for the boiling water. Whisk tills get a smooth thick batter. Then, slowly stir in the boiling water while whisking vigorously. 
3. Place a 9-inch oiled pan I the steamer and let it heat up for about a min. Slowly, pour in the batter mix.
4. Steam the kueh for 25-30 mins till a toothpick inserted into the center of the kueh comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.
5. Once cooled, cut the kueh into bite size pieces. Store in a large ziplock bag and refrigerate overnight.
6. The next day, cut up the pork fat into small pieces and render the fat out till u get about 2-3 tablespoon of liquid fat. You can do this by placing the fat in a non-stick pan over low heat for 10-15mins.
7.Prepare all the other ingredients. 
8. Using the same non- stick pan, add a tablespoon of the pork fat and pan fried the kueh till they turn lightly golden brown and a hard skin is formed. This step is important in order to avoid mushy char kueh kak.
9. Pan fried the kueh in batches. Set aside.
10. Next, in the same pan, add in the remainder of the pork fat and crunchy bits. Turn heat up to medium.
11. Saute the chai poh, chinese sausage (if using), and garlic till it is lightly browned.
12. Add in the garlic chilli sauce and stir fried till you get a nice spicy aroma.
13. Add in all the kueh and dark soy sauce. Stir till all the kueh has a nice dark color to it.
14. Next goes the bean sprouts, scallions, and chives. Continue to stir fry till the bean sprouts wilted slightly. Bout a minute.
15. Using your spatula, make a space in the center of the pan. Crank up the heat all the way to high. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Count to 20.
16. Immediately, cover the eggs with the kueh and vegetables. Stir fry all the contents till you can see specks of eggs assimilated with the rest of the ingredients.
17. Dish out and serve whilst hot.

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