Monday, 1 October 2012

Crispy Steamed Pumpkin Cakes



The chilly winds are relentlessly knocking on my window, and I actually have got the heater on now. It’s a far cry from less than a week ago when I was sweating just sitting down doing nothing. Yes, I’m back in London.

I’m not going to whine or moan about the weather, I’ve done it too many times. I actually really do like fall—the golden carpet beneath my feet, the cool crisp air, and most of all, the food of fall. Tonight* I’ll be cooking up a mid-autumn plusixfive supperclub feast with Jason and Christine- Singaporean classics with a British seasonal twist, think venison rendang, nonya grilled rabbit, sambal rainbow chard, pear sago, and fried pumpkin cakes. It’s this fried pumpkin cake that I’m going to be sharing now.

These pumpkin cakes are very different from the ones you read about in Harry Potter’s. At least I don’t think the traditional wizarding community ate crispy steamed rice cakes with chunks of pumpkin and nuggets of dried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms. These cakes are actually closer to the Cantonese fried carrot (radish) cake, or the steamed yam cake, a Teochew favourite in Singapore. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I wake up to the smell of my mum gently pan-frying pre-steamed yam or pumpkin cakes to warm them up, and then if for some reason these aren’t all finished up by me and my sisters, they are then had as dim sum for when we’re peckish around tea time.

The pumpkin that I’m using here is actually called the Crown prince squash, one of my favourite British varieties of pumpkin/ winter squashes. It’s got a great texture, is sweeter than other pumpkins, and stores well sitting on my kitchen table, all the while looking like a pretty still life with its jade green skin.


CRISPY STEAMED PUMPKIN CAKES
makes enough to feed a supperclub of 18
Ingredients
300g rice flour
1 tbsp tapioca flour
300g of crown prince squash, peeled and diced
4 shallots, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 heaped tbsp dried shrimps, soaked for 10 min
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 30 min or till soft
600 ml of water in total (i.e. including soaking water)
3 tbsp good traditionally brewed soy sauce
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp five spice powder (optional)
2 tbsp lard from happy pigs (or groundnut oil, but I like it old-school and healthy)



Method
1. Fry shallots in the lard, till crispy. See here for fried shallots and shallot oil. Drain and set aside. 
2. Drain the shrimps and mushrooms and chop/ slice finely, saving the soaking liquid. In half the oil, stirfry the garlic, shrimps and mushrooms with 1 tbsp soy sauce and the white pepper till very fragrant. Set aside with the shallots.
3. In the remaining half of the oil, stir fry the diced squash with 2 tbsp soy sauce and the five spice powder. Add enough water to the shrimp and mushroom soaking liquid to make 300ml and add to the squash, and let simmer for about 5 min till cooked. Towards the end, mash up roughly so you have a mix of pumpkin puree and cubes. 
4. Mix flours with salt and 300ml of water and stir till you get a smooth batter. Add this rice batter, along with the shrimps, mushroom, garlic and shallots, to the simmering pot. Remove from heat and continue stirring to mix well. It will start to thicken slightly to a worrying gloop.
5. Pour the gloopy mixture into a greased pan or steamproof container. I used an old empty tin of Christmas cookies. Cover and set over boiling water, steam over high heat for about 1 hours.
6. When done, let it cool for another hour before cutting. It will firm up as it cools. If you're impatient you'll just end up with a sticky knife and raggedy edges. This is why I like to do this a night in advance.
7.  Cut off the hardened surface layer (discard into your mouth) and then the rest into pretty rectangular bricks. You can steam to warm up again and serve with fried shallots, but of course that would be plain boring. Pan fry lightly in a medium hot pan with some lard/oil, on both sides, till golden and crispy on the surface.
8. Serve with a sweet chilli sauce (simply boil pureed chillies, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, all to taste, and reduce till thick) or weirdly, chilli ketchup (especially if homemade) goes brilliantly. 



The cakes are fragrant, with a natural mild sweetness from the Crown prince squash and bouts of umami hit from the dried shrimps and shiitake mushrooms, What I like most about it is its texture, crispy on the surface, but delightfully squidgy-springy on the inside. And as with all dim sum, it touches my heart. I may be back in the cold, grey London,  but I can still wake up to fried pumpkin cakes for breakfast. 


*It was last night. I didn't have time to upload the photos because I was too busy freaking out. Try feeding Singaporean food to a Singaporean food critic and an acclaimed Singaporean chef in a half-jetlagged state just three nights after coming back. It went brilliantly though, phew and hurrah!

42 comments:

  1. Lovely (though I'm going to take the shrimp and the lard out of this). I don't have that kind of squash at the moment, but will pick one up on the weekend.

    I think you are allowed to moan about the weather! I can't stop moaning about it myself...

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    1. In that case, maybe up the garlic and shallots for more flavour! And you can use any of your favourite sweet squash (:

      hehe you said so.. I'm going to start moaning.................

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  2. Looks yum.. but I think I'll substitute the lard with vege oil.

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    1. lard's healthy! (: read the linked post. but won't stop you if you insist!

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  3. god these are wonderful... I love the process of making the tray first then cutting and sauteing them... very pretty... and lovely photo's and sketch as usual! x

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    1. awww thanks so much dom! It does take a bit of pre-planning though, but once you've made a large tray you can have dim sum easy any time you want!

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  4. what a delightful combination! I feel a lot of traditional dim sum is either just salty or just sweet, so it's nice when the two mix without being something like sweet and sour pork :D

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    1. Thanks zo! This is why I actually prefer this to the usual cantonese fried radish cakes lor bak go (: (I do liek sweet and sour pork though..)

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  5. These sound delightful and very unique!

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  6. Looks great Shuhan - this is the kind of pumpkin dish I'd be on board with. Seems everyone goes nuts for pumpkin around this time of year - I usually don't see the attraction but this looks lovely... not too much pumpkin... just a nice bit and served in small servings!

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    1. Oh I remember you don't like pumpkin.. hah well this fits your bill for sure, and maybe can even convince you to like pumpkin! (I've been doing quite a few of your least favourite foods lately, eh? oh dear)

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  7. What a mouthwatering recipe, it looks so good. I love that you use gluten free flours :) I haven't come across crown prince squash before but will definitely be looking out for it at the markets now.

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    1. A lot of asian cooking even for snacks and cakes use rice flour, so yes unintentionally, they are all gluten-free ;) Oh you can use any squash you like, but I tend to favour crown prince, or kabocha, and the cutesy munchkin!

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  8. Wow, this sounds perfect! I LOVE pumpkin, I'm so glad it's october and we get pumpkin flavor back ;)

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    1. Some people really hate pumpkin though, but I can't get enough of it.. until maybe a month later into it.

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  9. Hi Shu Han,
    Based on your delicious Crispy Steamed Pumpkin Cakes photos, we'd like to invite you to submit your food photos on a food photography site called http://www.foodporn.net so our readers can enjoy your creations.
    It is absolutely free and fun to make others hungry!
    Thanks :)

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  10. The cakes look fabulous and so exotic! Such beautiful warm autumn colours, I find it hard to believe there is a strong wind and absolutely no sun outside...

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    1. There is sun, but it comes with wind and rain..

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  11. i am going to show that to my mom!

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    1. wah, stress. Hope it meet's mum's approval!

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  12. Ooh they look beautiful. I thought it was polenta at first, but how interesting to do something similar with rice flour. I am now itching to give this a go.

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  13. I really enjoy the layout and aesthetic of your blog (and do I need to mention the amazing food that lives here!?!) These cakes look amazing and I don't believe I've ever had anything like it..can't wait to try it--YUM!

    XOXO
    http://TheSquishyMonster.com

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  14. They look incredible - love the golden colour and the texture. In fact, the whole supper club menu sounds irresistible!

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    1. You HAVE to come to one of our supperclubs next time! There's one on the 21st! (:

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  15. Again, not what I expected from the title! But they look delicious nonetheless. These would make a wonderful snack or starter. Never seen anything like them before!

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  16. Wow Shu Han those look and sound so interesting! With you on the squash front-I love Crown Prince and last year our local Waitrose stocked it which was great as I’ve never had any success in growing squash-too much rain here!!

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    1. Yikes, it's raining right now, and has been rainign on-off for the past week, hard to believe there can be somewhere in the uk that's even more wet! Glad you can find it in waitrose then, though I suspect it'd be horribly overpriced there :(

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  17. Hi Shu Han. it's debby here from cooking up a storm in a teacup. I tried to find your email address but couldn't. I remember that you mentioned liking some vintage kitchen equipment I had in a photo in my blog and I thought you might be interested in my etsy shop kipperbone I've recently set up as it has some vintage kitchenailia. You may like to have a look.
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/kipperbone

    There's a 20% discount offer for anyone following any of my blogs or twitter account.

    Deb

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    1. DEB! I'm totally going to check that out now! I remember always asking you about your gorgeous kitchen equipment!

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  18. Yes, I like to pan fry leftover yam or pumpkin steamed cake, it actually taste better.

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  19. Eveytime I come here, you teach me something new Shu. There so much more to learn for me about asian cuisine and your native home. =)

    For example your pumpkin cakes, I d never think of serving them up the way you showed it.

    thanks for sharing all this with us! =D

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    1. no problem helene! I learn so much from your blog too!

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  20. these fried pumpkin cakes are wonderful to have with a cup of hot chinese tea.

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  21. Funny I just saw pale green pumpkins today and thought to myself how much more beautiful they were than their loud orange counterparts! Little did I know they tasted better too! I'm inspired to try these, they sound delicious!

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  22. These look amazing. I have a squash in the house so these are totally getting made.

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  23. This look so yummy! I am gonna try this at home. Shu Han, may i know what camera you use? Your pictures look awesome!

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    1. Hurrah! Let me know how it goes :)

      I use a semi pro actually, so it's not even a proper dslr per se. But it's a regular 18-55 lens I think..

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  24. Wow, I love pumpkin. Thank you for the recipe :)

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