Antoinette’s chef-owner Pang Kok Keong continues to pay homage to his Hakka heritage by adding his own twist to traditional abacus seeds and steamed Hakka kueh. These items will be available at Slow Food Singapore’s Kueh Appreciation Day 2017 at ToTT@Dunearn on 23 July, Sunday (10am-4pm).
The well-established pastry chef has been actively researching and testing traditional Hakka food recipes for the past few years. We find out more about his experiments and upcoming plans.
Q: Tell us more about the kueh that you used to eat when you were younger, and what you will be showcasing at Kueh Appreciation Day?
Pang: One of the Hakka kuehs that I will be making has a filling of leek, tau kwa, garlic, and dried shrimps. My mother used to make it when I was very young, and I tried to re-create the taste. I’ve also done png kueh (pink coloured ‘rice’ kueh) filled with glutinous rice, Chinese mushroom, garlic, fried shallot, leek, dried shrimps and dried chestnuts. This the most time consuming to prepare as the rice for the filling has to be soaked and steamed over a long period of time. You have to wrap the filling in dough and steam again. I will also prepare abacus seeds (suan pan zi) made with yam as well as purple and yellow sweet potato. This dough is fried with minced pork, dried shrimp, dried cuttlefish, mushroom, garlic, leek and black fungus. Personally, I like the dough to have a more bouncy/chewy texture.
Q: You were trained in French techniques. What were the interesting elements you discovered when making Chinese kueh?
Pang: The last few years I started to do a lot of research on traditional Hakka dishes. I will continue experimenting on these recipes. It works so differently from Western pastry. There seems to be many variables when making (Chinese) kueh. For example for the png kueh, I made it using exactly the same recipe. But when I was shaping it earlier, the dough was sticky and difficult to work with. Yesterday when I tried making it again, it turned out differently – it was bouncier and firmer. I used the same method, but the only difference was the smaller quantity.
Cake and bread flours are used in French pastry. Glutinous rice flour and tapioca starch are mostly used in kueh making. When I started to make kueh, I found these different starches and flours very intriguing. It’s a whole new world, and that’s why it’s so interesting. For example, why do you need to pour boiling water into the flour to form the dough, and steam it. A lot of these recipes require you to pour in boiling water to semi cook the flour – so that you can get a nice bouncy texture to the dough.
Q: Are you planning to introduce these Hakka dishes in Antoinette’s menu?
I will be launching a new menu soon. I’m planning to blend Hakka and local dishes with French ingredients – so instead of Chinese mushrooms we will use morel mushroom and we’ll finish it with foie gras. For chicken rice, we will cook the chicken breast sous vide, and instead of rice we will cook barley in chicken stock. We will make our own chilli gel and serve a scallion ginger dressing with the chicken. The taste will be rustic, but the presentation will be refined. We will also make chilli crab arancini – we cook the risotto with crab meat and lobster bisque – and we fill the centre with chilli crab sauce. I intend to take this new direction and to do something a little more unique.
For more information please visit: http://www.slowfood.sg/kueh-appreciation-day-2017/