Archive for the ‘cornflour’ Category

I had some problems working out this recipe. Firstly, I misread grandmother’s handwriting as ‘Tim Kor’ instead of ‘Fun Kor’. Secondly, she wrote a second recipe on the same page in the same pen for ‘Chye Yean’. As there were no cooking instructions, and only partial ingredients for the Fun Kor, I failed to realise what dish was being written about.

Thanks to the fabulous readers here, I’ve got it all sorted out now. Please see the comments from Chris, Lily Ng and Claire below.

Fun Kor is a steamed dumpling, originally a Teochew  dish, but more commonly known by its Cantonese name. I surmise that this is because of the Teochew (Chiu chow) influence in Hong Kong. Fun Kor is commonly found in dim sum, a style of eating that developed in Hong Kong.

In the comments below, reader Claire also provides instructions on how her mother makes the Fun Kor skin, using similar basic ingredients to my grandmother, as well details of the meat filling. I’m sure you can find other recipes on the internet and in dim sum cookbooks. Claire refers to ‘jicama‘, which is known in Singapore/Malaysia as bangkuang.

So grandma’s notes here are only for the flour proportions for the Fun Kor skin. You’ll need to add water and cooking oil as well, not to mention making the filling of your choice.

Tung mean” flour refers to wheat starch, which goes by various Chinese names: 澄 麵粉/澄粉/澄麵, usually used in dim sum dishes to give a glossy sheen to the food. It’s easily available in Singapore supermarkets that have a good selection of Asian flours, such as NTUC, or baking suppliers like Phoon Huat.


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Here’s another YWCA recipe, indicated by the ‘Y.W.’ notation in the top right-hand corner.

Earlier on, I’d already blogged about the history of commercially-produced ice cream in Singapore since the 1920s, and posted grandma’s notes for ‘perfect vanilla ice cream‘, taken from McCall’s women’s magazine.

This idea for Horlicks ice cream seems really way ahead of its time. In recent years the ice cream parlour, Island Creamery, has gained legions of fans for its ice-cream in unusual local flavours such as teh tarik, chendol, Nutella and of course, Horlicks!

Horlicks is another one of the late 19th century industrial food products that became household names in colonial Singapore by the 1920s and 30s (read the history of Horlicks here). You might already have encountered on this blog condensed and evaporated milk, as well as vegetable shortenings like Spry and Crisco. These new food products were often promoted using new, scientific principles of health and sanitation at the time. For example, in the early 1930s, the ‘Night Starvation’ theory was developed to promote Horlicks, and even now, Horlicks is branded as a sleeping aid. These might have been genuine claims but sometimes more due to the creativity of advertisers. Educating consumers on new food products was a serious business, as you can see from this collection of advertising cookbooks from America dating from 1878 to 1929.

With a huge growth in commercial products of the edible and non-edible kind in the early twentieth century, the field of advertising also became more sophisticated with an increasing body of theory and practical advice about it. In Malaya and Singapore, there was a need to produce advertisements that would appeal to local consumers and in the 1930s, local advertising agencies began to emerge to help international brands like Horlicks communicate to Asian consumers in the manner and language that would speak to them best. See these Horlicks advertisements taken from Singapore newspapers in 1930 — one appears to be an exact copy of an advertisement that might have appeared Britain but two contain Chinese proverbs:

Horlicks 1

Horlicks 2

Horlicks 3

After all that excitement about Horlicks and Horlicks ice cream in particular, that isn’t all there is to this recipe, which is actually a strawberry parfait that happens to be made with Horlicks ice cream! Strawberries in tropical Singapore? Certainly during the 1950s/60s when grandma was using this recipe, because even in 1930, foreign fruits and vegetables were imported by Cold Storage as well as other companies. Here’s an advertisement from by The Fresh Food and Refrigeration Company promoting strawberries in cartons!

Strawberries cartons

The recipe doesn’t clearly say so, but parfaits are layered frozen desserts which are always served in tall, slim glasses (the word ‘parfait’ refers to both the dessert as well as the glassware it’s served in).

Horlicks Strawberry Parfait A

Horlicks Strawberry Parfait B

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Another one in the series of pie recipies.

As with the pineapple pie recipe, the instructions refer to the canned version of an ingredient that is easily available fresh and locally-grown, in this case, coconut. It’s an interesting world journey of foods – tropical products in commercial, packaged form make their way into western recipes, which themselves are in turn passed onto to local cooks in tropical colonies.

There are no instructions here for the pie shell. My guess is that grandmother would have used a shortcrust pastry, just like the type we used for our regular family favourite of apple pie. You could try grandma’s Graham Cracker pie crust recipe here.
[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]
Coconut Cream Pie A

Coconut Cream Pie B

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This dish has a very fruity and exciting name :)!

The recipe calls for a packaged, commercial strawberry jelly (or ‘gelatine’) and tells you to follow the directions on the package. I’ve commented in numerous entries on this blog about the usage of commercial food products as a sign of changing times, and also written about about pineapple here.

Pineapple Strawberry Island

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Please don’t be fooled – this is not the recipe for traditional, nonya pineapple tarts made for Chinese New Year. This is a western pie recipe for which the filling is pineapple. Grandma also had a recipe for Pineapple Pie Filling that you might want to have a look at.

Interesting food journeys are hinted at in this recipe. My guess is that it is an American recipe as pies are a more prominent part of American cuisine than British cooking. As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother read McCalls, an American women’s magazine famous for its recipes, and learnt about American food from ladies in the YWCA such as a Mrs Armstuz.

The pineapple is a plant native to the Americas, so Americans might have obtained their pineapples from Hawaii or Latin America. However, Europeans got their pineapple in canned form, often from Southeast Asia. The European colonial presence – Portuguese and Spanish from the 15th-18th centuries – brought the pineapple from the New World to tropical Southeast Asia. Under British colonial rule in the 19th century, Malaya became a major world exporter of canned pineapple. [Bibliographic note: The Pineapple: The King of Fruits by Fran Beauman is extremely informative on the Hawaiian canned pineapple industry, but disappointingly only has brief references to Malaya on a couple of pages, despite the importance of Malayan pineapple exports in the world market.]

In the early twentieth century, the famous industrialist and philanthropist in Singapore, Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚), had a massive business producing canned pineapple (continuing from his father, Tan Kee Peck, who had secured 70 percent of the Malayan export trade in pineapples by 1900). Here is an interesting description of Tan Kah Kee’s pineapple business:

…[Tan Kah Kee] made daily contact with European agency houses and found out for himself the overseas demand for various types and styles of canned pineapples (for example, sweetened or unsweetened, with different slice shapes and sizes), so that he could manufacture products according to specific demands or changing tastes.

[Reference: C.F. Yong, Tan Kah Kee: The Making of an Overseas Chinese Legend (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 21, 44-46]

This recipe calls for ‘drained pineapple’ and making use of the juice, which indicates that it’s canned pineapple that’s required, not the fresh type that was so easily available in Singapore/Malaya — another hint at the foreign origins of this recipe, yet using a very homegrown ingredient which became popular around the globe.

Also, a pie crust is required but there are no instructions for this. Perhaps try grandma’s Graham Cracker pie crust recipe here.
[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]
Pineapple Pie Tart

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Enough of the chicken recipes, some sauces to follow now…

Here’s a popular Chinese standard :).

Sweet & Sour Sauce

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These days, we’re most likely to buy our sweet flour sauce, bee cheo, ready-made from the shops. As an essential ingredient for poh piah, my grandmother would always insist on getting Buddha brand, which isn’t that easily available in all supermarkets – try the wet market provision store.

Anyway to make your own bee cheo from scratch:
(NB: we tend to refer to coconut sugar more commonly as gula melaka, also known as palm sugar.)

Bee Cheo

Do check out my other poh piah entries here.

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The ingredients for filling and egg skin one more time! However, this time there are finally instructions on how to prepare the filling.

– the pork is specifically ‘sam chang’, the pork with fatty layers which make it tender and juicy :),
– ‘tau cheong’ (Cantonese) is used in the list of ingredients here, but in the other ingredients lists posted previously as well as in the instructions here, the Hokkien version, ‘tau cheow’ is used.

My grandmother’s tip on preparing the filling: grated bangkwang is too fine, it doesn’t give the same ‘bite’ as hand-chopped bangkwang. So no modern shortcuts if you want to get that ‘traditional’ taste :)!

See my last entry on the importance of duck’s eggs (as opposed to chicken’s eggs). Do check out my other poh piah entries here.
Popia 4A

Popia 4B

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