Friday, 29 July 2011

Mum's Top(ping) Tip: Fried Shallots, Garlic and Ginger



One of the things I told myself I must do when I flew back to Singapore in the summer, is learn my mum's kitchen secrets. She's not the best teacher though, because like all Asian cooks, nothing comes in measurements, and sauces and spices are just thrown into the wok with such casual flourish it's downright frustrating. I did what I could- stood beside her watching, asked her stupid questions, and sneaked around her cupboards tasting every condiment and pickle. I told her I wanted to start from the basics, and she quite impatiently pointed at the 3 bowls that she always keeps on standby beside the stove. Fried shallots, fried ginger, and fried garlic, and of course, the resulting byproduct-- fragrant flavour-infused oils.

FRIED SHALLOTS AND SHALLOT OIL
(do more at once, you can use them on everything)
Ingredients
shallots 
groundnut oil
pinch of sea salt

Method
1. Peel shallots and slice thinly, and break apart into little rings by tossing with your fingers gently. Dab dry first, then toss with the salt, which helps them crisp up better. Do this at the last moment before you fry them or they might sweat.
2. Heat 2 inches of oil (I didn't give an amount because you'll use less if you're using a wok because of the round bottom) to medium, you should see really tiny bubbles. If it's too low, it'd be useless; if it's too high, the shallots will burn.

Beautiful glittering (golden, because of wrong camera settings) shallots

3. Add shallots to the heated oil. They should bubble mildly. You can then turn up the heat a little. Let cook about 8-9 min till the edges get a bit brown.
4. Ok now PAY ATTENTION. From this point onwards, you can go from beautiful golden crispy caramelised shallots to a burnt mess really easily. Once more than half of the shallots are golden, remove from heat and let them continue to sizzle in the residual heat of the oil until they are perfectly golden brown. If you wait until they are already golden brown before removing from the heat, they will end up burning.


Remove now now now.

This is called 'too late'.

5. Drain the fried shallots, they crisp up as they cool. DO NOT discard that fragrant flavourful oil. You can store the shallots in the oil too, but still drain and let cool or else the shallots will keep cooking in the hot oil.

I know it sounds like a lot of oil, but you are not eating all that oil! It's used sparingly as finishing drizzles like toasted sesame oil for that extra oomph. If you're stingy with the oil, you end up stewing the shallots and you end up with sticky (and in fact, oilier) caramelised shallots (which isn't such a bad thing because they still taste yummy but it's no longer the multi-purpose condiment you're after).


I speak humbly from personal experience, again.

~

It's the same method for fried garlic and fried ginger.

FRIED GARLIC AND GARLIC OIL
Ingredients
garlic, peeled, chopped roughly
groundnut oil
pinch of sea salt

Method
Same as above, but garlic burns a lot quicker. Remove from heat once you smell that garlicky aroma. They are done right when they are golden, not brown! This is very good on top of vegetables, and extremely good on top of vegetables with oyster sauce.

~

FRIED GINGER AND GINGER OIL
Ingredients
ginger
groundnut oil
small amount of sesame oil (this combination of sesame oil and ginger is very popular in chinese confinement dishes. I've never had a baby but all the same, I'm in love with anything that uses these 2 together- the aroma is enough to make me hungry.)

Method
Same as above, but my mum will smash the ginger first so they fall apart into fibrous threads, then go ahead to thinly slice/julienne them. They are done right when they are golden. This is especially good for anything fishy.

~


One of these three will usually be used to top simply cooked dishes, her final flourish to anything from stir-fries to soups to steamed to braised dishes to just plain rice congee, or she might use that fragrant oil as the finishing drizzle for an instant boost of deliciousness.

(Update: Now, I also always have three bowls sitting beside my stove.)

17 comments:

  1. I hope you are passing your exams because it seems you spend a lot of quality time sharing things from the east with we westerners. I for one appreciate it.

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  2. i grew up with fried shallots! we put it on almost everything...esp noodles!! love love them! they smell and taste fantastic!
    yea its the same with me - i guess its only when you move out, you realise how you wish you had learnt a few dishes from your mum!

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  3. These look so perfect to top any meal! That's a really good point about the ginger topping reducing the fish scent. Looks delicious!!

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  4. 3 toppings I used to hate. 3 toppings that I now love!

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  5. yum! we love crispy garlic and onions but crispy ginger is not common. i'll try tt; thanx! great blog btw:)

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  6. These look great. Definitely going to try them out. How long can you store them for? c

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  7. I love deep frying my own shallots too. So so good. Just like chips :)

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  8. Stephen: I'm glad you appreciate it(: Don't worry, I'm doing well in my studies haha.

    Viv: Yes! I'm tryign to squeeze all I can from her these days!

    Jessica:Yup, it goes even better with just plain steamed fish with soy sauce and pepper!

    Pierre: I used to hate eating them too, but at the same time, I loved the smell of the infused oil. Now I love them all.

    Terri: thanks! btw the ginger, though fried, is not crispy, unlike the shalllots and onions. The flavour of the ginger is totally transformed by the frying though, so aromatic!

    Claire: Good point. My mum just leaves them in the oil and they stay crispy even (insulation?) for up to a week. You can store the drained shallots in an airtight container for 2 weeks plus. ANd the oil wil keep indefinitely, even if left out, but do cover it.

    Penny: heh I do eat them liek chips sometimes ><

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  9. I like the way they infuse flavors into a plain veggie dish; stir-fried pea shoots with garlic is one of my favorites.

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  10. Drain off the oil and store in containers in the fridge. I too use the oil for steam fish, blanched veggie. The fragrant oil is very versatile.

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  11. I love three of them! This robust trio of garnish or to me, ingredients that stand on their own, jazzing up so-called 'plain" dishes so well! Noodle stir-fry or soups topped with fried shallots is superbly delicious.

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  12. Ginger oil...now that is something I definitely need in my kitchen! Looks so good!

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  13. Crisp fried shallots and garlic on porridge is good too :-)) Love it!

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  14. thanks for the tip cheah!

    i agree with you all, i think the crisp fried shallots are the most versatile, great over noodles, rice, vegetables, fish, chinese or malay food, everything really.

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  15. Your recipe looks simple but nutritious and delicious. I think my wife would be interested to this recipe because she's looking for a healthy food for our kids. I will share this now to her. Thanks for sharing!

    Beef Stir Fry

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  16. Nice written!! I have been a big fan of your blogs. thanks best fishing line

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  17. How long can u store in a jar for the fried shallot ?

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