Wednesday, 5 May 2021

#ewew cooks Oven-Grilled Saba Teriyaki & Shioyaki

I've always enjoyed eating unagi and saba at Japanese eateries.  And since I can get a reliable supply of reasonably priced frozen seafood delivered to me via Vfresh now, I decided to get some to try.  I've already tried (frozen) unagi previously and though the quality and taste was a distance away from what I had at Japanese restaurants, it's still a possible option if I'm looking for some very affordably priced unagi.

But their frozen saba is quite a different story.  I first bought two fillets to try (one piece costs about RM5 - RM7 depending on stock or promotion) and enjoyed it so much that I got another three on my second order (and I foresee this will be a regular order from now on) which tasted even better (fresher stock, I think).  Vfresh's saba sells out quite quickly (sometimes two weeks after re-stock, testament that they're pretty popular with his customers). Of course, one has bear in mind that this is frozen saba, so it wouldn't be fair to compare them with the fresh mackerel served at some Japanese restaurants.

I usually cook them in two ways.....the same two ways I've eaten them...and the only two ways I know how to cook  Recipe 1 is Saba Teriyaki or grilled mackerel in teriyaki sauce.

(Japanese soy), sake (Japanese rice wine) and mirin (similar to sake but sweeter and with a lower alcohol content) are possibly three of the most common ingredients used in Japanese cooking that you'll need.   But I don't carry sake in my pantry (I don't even use Japanese soy) since I rarely cook Japanese anyway.  Japanese sauces and condiments are not cheap + they also tend to have very short shelf lives compared to our Chinese sauces so, unless you use them often, they'll expire before you're even half way through the bottle (and that has happened to me before).  So, when recipes call for the use of sake, I sometimes substitute with Chinese rice wine (or Shaoxing wine) or omit altogether + I also use Chinese soy sauce in replacement of shoyu (otherwise I end up two types of soy that I can't finish)The only one that I do buy is mirin as it's used in practically all Japanese dishes.

A typical teriyaki sauce uses shoyusake and mirin in equal parts with added sugar (adjusted to your liking). The golden ratio is usually 2 : 2 : 2 : 1 and you can stick to this measurement depending on the amount you want to make (use a tablespoon if you're making just a bit and use a cup if you want to make more).

For my recipe (for one piece of saba), apart from 2 tbsp of mirin and 2 tbsp of Shaoxing wine, I used 1 tbsp of soy and 1 tbsp of water (instead of 2 tbsp of shoyu) as I know the soy sauce I have is quite salty (so adjust accordingly as only you know the intensity of your soy).  And since I reduced the amount of shoyu, I could also reduce the about of sugar from 1 tbsp to only 1/2 a tbsp.  You can also choose to omit the Shaoxing wine (like I've done before) and it'll still be just as good.

Method 1 - Spoon 2 tbsp of the marinade over the fish and put to bake/grill in your convection oven.  Most recipes online would advise you to set the temperature to 180°C and grill for about 15 -20 minutes.

I decided to crank up the heat to 200°C (+ I also sprayed the saba with some olive oil) as I'm thinking this will give it a better charring and it was done in half the time (10 minutes).  When it was taken out of the oven, I noticed that the belly section of the saba (the thinner part of the fish) curled up.

Simmer the rest of the teriyaki marinade to reduce to a thicker consistency for intensity of flavour.  It should take no more than 2 - 3 minutes depending on the consistency you wish to achieve.  This method obviously needs a little bit more effort (to reduce the sauce).

Method 2
- Marinate the saba with the teriyaki sauce and then put to grill/bake in the oven at 200°C (I poured the rest of the marinade over the fish).  This is the much simpler way to prepare saba teriyaki.

I decided to make some slits in the fish this round and it didn't curl up this time.  This time I cooked it for 8 minutes (anytime between 8 - 10 minutes is fine).  But because the fish is wet (from the marination), you might get a bit less charring on the fish but a bit more flavour in the fish.

Also, if you choose to do it this way, the sauce (which was cooked along with the fish) will not have the intensity of colour nor flavour coz it was not reduced, so it'll also be more watery.

Recipe 2
is Saba Shioyaki or salt (shio) grilled (yaki) mackerel, the second and only other way I know how to cook saba fillets.

Most recipes told me to season the fish with salt and let it rest for 20 minutes.  This is to draw out the water from the fish and make the flesh denser.  Some will season with sake too as this supposedly tenderises the fish and removes any fish odour.  Then pat it dry before grilling.  I'm thinking wouldn't the fish end up dry if we use salt to draw out the moisture?  And why would I want my fish to be denser in texture?  So I did no such thing + I was too lazy to go through that extra step.

I like to keep the frozen mackerel dry by putting it between paper towels after it has been defrosted.  I rubbed both sides of the fish with some olive oil and sprinkle the fish (skin side) with salt.  The flesh side of the fish, I used less salt but rubbed a tiny bit of light soy on it hoping that it would help brown the fish better.

I put it into the oven (skin side down) at 200°C and decided to put the tray on the upper level of the oven (nearer the heat).  I grilled the underside for about 5 minutes before flipping the fish over and grilling the skin side for a further 5 minutes.  The skin that was brushed with oil, I was hoping would crisp up and char...and it did, but not entirely.

You can also choose to pan-fry your saba shioyaki which will give rise to a much crispier skin and a more browned fish overall.  But it can also turn out a little drier, so try to use the grilling/baking method instead of pan-frying for a moister finish.

You can serve this grilled saba shioyaki as a side dish on its own.  It's beautiful with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over it. ^o^  Simple but yet so good...but don't expect the skin to be too crispy though as saba fish is known to have slightly chewy skin.  Sprinkle some furikake over the top just because you

Or make it into a donburi with steamed rice and some greens (I usually do it with either stir-fried or blanched bok choy).  I'm pretty pleased with the quality and taste of this frozen saba...certainly way better and not as dry as those grilled mackerel bentos I used to get from Aeon (and even better than some of those from Japanese and Korean restaurants).

For those of you who like your saba with a sauce and some sweetness, then the saba teriyaki will appeal to you more.  Great eaten on its own too.  But I'd probably go with the method which needs a little bit more effort as the reduced teriyaki sauce will have a more concentrated flavour (tweak the sweetness of the sauce to suit your palate). ^.^

The only thing that's missing is that great smoky, charred flavour like those you get at Japanese restaurants. I'm afraid that can only happen if the saba is grilled over hot charcoal that will blister the skin and impart that much sought after charred flavour into the flesh.

Whether eaten teriyaki or shioyaki-style, it's good either way. ^o^  Though the skin can be a little chewy and the flesh just a tad dry (sometimes depending on the quality and freshness of the saba), we can't ask for more really for a fish that's that cheap.  As the fish fillet is relatively thin, it defrosts quite quickly too, so it's a pretty handy thing to have in the freezer that one can use to cook at short notice (such as during a rainy day in New York....oops, I mean KL!).  Just 8 - 10 minutes in the oven is all it needs to have a quick and healthy meal ready...and that sounds pretty darn good to me.  Go get some frozen saba! ^_~

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Don by TSF via Delivery

When I first learned about Don by TSF (by AirAsia) from phonghongbakes, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I tried since she sang praises of the food.

Don by TSF
, located in Taman Danau Kota, specialises in Japanese inspired donburi (or rice bowls) infused with some of our favourite local ingredients.  My initial order was made via AirAsia Food Delivery.

The don that stood out the most, the one that looked most inviting, was the Chicken Karaage Don @ RM17 and that was my very first order.  This chicken karaage (or Japanese fried chicken as we know) came with boneless fried chicken (7 good-sized pieces), juicy diced mangoes, finely julienned cucumber and red chillies on Japanese rice.

Even though the karaage chicken were no longer crispy when they arrived, the mildly spicy, boneless bite-sized pieces of chicken thigh, finished with togarashi spice (a Japanese 7-spice blend), were juicy and tasty (and still lightly crisp on the outside).  Sometimes an overly crispy karaage = a dry kaarage (more often than not), so I'm one who doesn't mind one bit a slightly less crispy karaage as long as it tastes good...and this one tastes good! ^.^

The rice, sprinkled with aonori (green seaweed) flakes, with garlic soy dressing was also full of flavour while the mango salsa, together with the pickled cucumber salad and a slight hint of heat from the shredded pickled red chillies, perked up my taste buds and provided a mouthful of freshness.

Their karaage chicken is a recipe inspired by Malaysian-born Masterchef Australia winner, Adam Liaw, apparently.  For me, it was the inclusion of fresh, juicy mangoes that set it apart from the usual chicken karaage don.  Good stuff!

The Soy Glazed Eggplant @ RM10 was one of phonghong's favourite sides and I knew it would be mine too coz what other conclusion can there be since I'm a lover of eggplant too.  The soy-glazed eggplant gave the super soft (albeit slightly oily but can't be helped), well charred eggplant loads of flavour from the shoyu reduction with spring onions and shallots with a whisper of sweetness from the Japanese mayo.  It was the flavoursome sauce coating the eggplant that made me love this dish.

I wasn't sure what those lightly crisp shreds on top were at first (they turned out to be finely shredded fried leeks) but it had a mild hint of heat and savouriness from the togarashi spice.  This, together with the sauce, worked in unison to make the dish that more appetising.  I loved, loved, loved this dish (and I agree with her that we should order two portions next

As for the enoki tempura, they arrived fully crispy, so that was a bonus!  If not, you can easily fix that by toasting them in a toaster oven for a few minutes (I did that as I had some leftover and they came out super crispy again).  The enoki was well seasoned and I could taste the salt in between the crevices of the enoki strands but wished a separate dipping sauce was included for the enoki.

You can turn this soy-glazed eggplant side dish into a donburi by ordering The Nasu Donburi for RM17 with an extra soy-braised egg.  I suppose you can cook your own rice and egg (if you really wanted to) without having to pay an extra RM7 for it...kekeke!) since the serving portion of this side dish is rather generous and can be a bit too flavourful eaten on its own.  If you crave eggplant, you'll be utterly satisfied with this side dish or donburi.

As for phonghong's other favourite side, Don's Chilli Tofu @ RM10, it (unfortunately) didn't turn out to be mine.  You get 8 pcs of deep-fried bean curd cooked with sweetish onions and a chilli bean sauce that tastes different from a typical sambal.

The soft tofu cubes are topped with thinly shredded crispy leeks, pickled chillies and spring onions. The description also mentioned a kombu vinaigrette giving the dish a lightly tart finish.

I detected a taste in the tofu that I didn't quite like but couldn't pinpoint what it was...until I re-read the dish's description which mentioned that the tofu was aromatically fried with Shaoxing wine.  That's it.....that's the weird taste which I didn't expect to find in the tofu.

Don't get me wrong...I do like Shaoxing wine that's frequently used in many Chinese dishes but one has to be careful with the amount used and how it's treated.  That's why it's often suggested that we add the Shaoxing wine right at the end and cook it off so as to give the food a fragrant aftertaste instead of a boozy one.  I think I could taste the wine because too much was used or it was absorbed by the tofu.  I once used that in a braised mushroom dish and I didn't like the outcome as I could taste the wine which the mushrooms absorbed.

For my second order, I wanted to try the Soy Glazed Salmon Don @ RM18.  This consisted of a piece of soy-marinated salmon on rice, served with onsen egg, pickled cucumbers, nori, spring onions, togarashi spice and wasabi mayo.

I had to say the soy-marinated salmon (not that I detected much soy flavour), though fully cooked all the way through, was nicely flaky and wasn't dry to the bite. 

Perhaps it was helped a bit by the luscious, creamy, egg yolk which, unfortunately, broke during the course of delivery.  Can't really fault the rider since the runny yolk is of such delicate nature.

There was also this drizzle of wasabi mayo over the rice but, thankfully, it was only a light drizzle.  I don't care for wasabi (I must have missed it in the description) due to its very pungent aftertaste but, luckily, this version was tolerable due to its pungency being very much reduced as it was infused with mayo.  Still, I'd rather have none of it (must remember to ask them to omit it in future re-orders).

I also tried the Nam Yue Pork Belly Don @ RM16 featuring nam yue (Chinese fermented bean curd) marinated deep fried pork belly (with a request for less fatty meat) on rice served with a sour cabbage slaw, pickled chillies, spicy sriracha mayo and a wedge of lime.

When I opened up this donburi, I was very happy to see the generous amount of nam yue pork belly chunks covering more than half the rice bowl but my happiness was short-lived as the pork belly turned out to be not sufficiently tender enough + the fatty parts were also very chewy.  Yes, there were still fatty parts (even after assuring me that they'll give me leaner parts) through no fault of theirs (what was I thinking, this is what pork belly should be like after all!).  The nam yue marination also did not stand out as I could hardly taste the nam yue.

I think the nam yue pork belly fell short because they were (in my opinion) cut into too thick chunks.  I think the marination would have been absorbed better if they were in smaller pieces which would have resulted in crispier bites.  I have eaten my fair share of nam yue pork belly from Chinese restaurants (even chap fan stalls) that I had to say tasted a lot better than this.

If you can't see the zesty, hot sriracha mayo, that's because it was hidden beneath the nam yue pork belly pieces...and there was just too little of it.  The cabbage slaw (similar to what's usually served with tonkatsu, only shredded much finer) could use with a drizzle of the sriracha mayo too so as not to make it feel like we were just eating raw cabbage.  Overall, the whole dish felt dry (perhaps if a little tub of sriracha mayo was given, it wouldn't have been so dry).  Since the nam yue pork belly didn't work for me, I think I can safely say no to their miso pork belly don too.

I paid RM7.99 for delivery (by AirAsia Food for my first order) but this was compensated by a 20% discount that was running then which came up to RM8).  When it comes to food delivery by any platforms, I'd prefer a delivery fee of RM5 (which I think is the most reasonable) and would be willing to go up to RM8 if the food was good but RM10 is the max I'd be willing to pay no matter how good the food.  So I was aghast when I learned that phonghong paid RM20 for delivery! O_o  It would take a lot of convincing for me to pay that amount for delivery.  RM8 may not sound like much but if I'm ordering only two dons, that simply means each rice bowl just cost me an additional RM4, so (in that sense) I feel it's not that worth it! >_<

The second time though I ordered directly from Don by TSF (via whatsapp) coz I couldn't fine their listing on AirAsia Food.  I was later told that they had not renewed their plan with them as they were waiting to see what the new terms were.  Anyway, the delivery charges ended up to be the same (RM8, free if you make 6 orders) but the prices (for each don) were cheaper by about RM2.  So, it's up to you whether ordering direct from Don by TSF or from AirAsia Food (when they do renew their plan with them) works better for you.  Obviously for me, if there are no promotions on AirAsia Food, then ordering direct would be the better option.  P/S: Please know that you can request for "no cutlery" (I didn't know that was an option the first time round but was asked in my second order, so I dutifully opted for none).

My Personal Opinion

Don by TSF turned out to be a wonderful recommendation....and I'm grateful to phonghongbakes for her wonderful discovery.  And yes, the portions are just right for me (actually they're pretty generous) and one donburi is good enough for average-sized appetites (it was more than sufficient to fill me up)! ^_~

The soy glazed eggplant is right there at the very top in terms of favourites for me followed closely by the chicken karaage.  These two are certainly deserving of mention (and repeats, for sure).  I wouldn't mind having the soy glazed salmon again either.....but hold the wasabi mayo, please! ;P

There will be repeat orders from them.....definitely! ^o^  In fact, I've already done so.....and I foresee there'll be more to come in the days and months ahead....but I won't be coming near any pork belly related donburi anytime there's no such thing as leaner pork!

Don by TSF (Taste Some Food)
Danau Kota Suite Apartment
Danau Kota Komersial
No 1 Jalan 6A/6 Off Jalan Taman Ibu Kota
Taman Danau Kota Setapak
53300 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 010-422 3607

Thursday, 22 April 2021

#ewew cooks Prawns with Own-Made Fresh Chilli Paste

One day, my neighbour sent me a photo through whatsapp of the prawn dish she made with her own blended chilli paste (the same neighbour who taught me to make a big batch of chilli paste and freeze it).  It looked delicious enough to make me want to replicate her dish.

So I asked her what went into her dish.  She told me she added a bit of taucu (a paste made from preserved fermented yellow soybeans) and blended it with her chilli paste.  That sounds easy enough, I thought, so I set out to cook this prawn dish with my own-made chilli paste.


20 large prawns, deshelled & deveined 
1 onion, peeled & finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
3 stalks spring onions
6 tbsp chilli paste
1 tbsp taucu (or salted soybean), mashed
6 tbsp water
Oil for sauteeing
A drizzle of light soy for colour


Deshell and devein the large prawns (by making a slit along the back of the prawn) but leave the tails intact. Finely chop the peeled onion and garlic cloves.  Cut spring onions into 2-inch lengths and finely chop some of it for use as a garnish later.


Saute finely chopped onion in 2 - 3 tbsp of oil until soft and translucent before adding the chopped garlic.  Fry the aromatics until fragrant.

Add in the blended chilli paste (you can follow my recipe or use your own version) and another 2 - 3 tbsp of oil and fry over low heat until aromatic (chilli pastes or sambals are unfortunately very good absorbers of oil).    You will be able to smell the fragrance of the chilli paste when it's ready or (as they say) tumis sampai pecah minyak (saute until the oil separates) but it'll take at least a good 10 mins before that happens (patience is key when you want a well-cooked paste).  It's quite shocking to see the amount of oil used for cooking sambal outside...but since this is home cooking, use less oil lah when we can (even though that would mean we may not be able to see the oil separating from the paste).

When you feel the chilli paste is almost there (by the smell and the darkened colour of it), add in the taucu. You can choose to buy the soybeans whole or in paste/minced form.  I asked my dry goods seller which one tastes better and he says the whole soybeans is more fragrant.  Ok, I'll take his word for it (+ he has never steered me wrong before...heheh!).  After all, if I need it minced or in paste form, I can just chop it up with a knife.

Once the paste has come together, it's time to put in the prawns.  As you can see, I left the tails intact (a much prettier presentation) but you can certainly choose to deshell everything for easier eating.

Flip and stir the prawns around until they turn pink and opaque and are cooked through.  At this point, I poured in about 3 - 4 tbsp of water just to help with the cooking of the prawns and to create a little sauce.  I also drizzled in a bit of light soy for colour and taste.

When the prawns are about done, add in the spring onions and toss them quickly into the prawns.  It should take barely a minute to soften.  If the chilli paste gets a little dry, add in a bit more water (another 2 - 3 tbsp) just before you plate up.

Finished with a sprinkle of chopped spring onions (just because I had extras), this prawn dish with own-made fresh chilli paste is rather tasty with firm, fresh prawns that have a very slight hint of heat from the chilli paste and light saltiness from the taucu. ^o^

Having made this successfully, I ended making this dish again for our hoi nin lunch on the second day of the Lunar New Year when my sister-in-law asked me to make a dish with the balance large tiger prawns she bought (and it so happens I had some frozen chilli paste in my freezer).

Once you have a made/stored chilli paste ready, it's pretty easy to whip up any dish that requires it to be cooked with a chilli paste.  Because I used only fresh red chillies (and not many at that), it isn't spicy at all. Even children can handle the heat level of this dish but feel free to use more chillies (or bird's eye chillies) if you like it spicier.

The taucu gives the prawns its salty base but I used only 1 tbsp, so the saltiness is quite muted.  If you like your food more savoury, you can bump that up to 2 tbsp...your call! ;)

My neighbour's version had additional glass noodles in the mix.  I thought it was an odd pairing at first but still followed suit but had to abandon the idea quickly when my glass noodles (which I blanched in hot water earlier and left sitting on a dish thinking it was meant to be stir-fried with the prawns) clumped together and became a mushy blob.  I later learned from my neighbour that she steamed hers together with the prawns and chilli paste (and from also when she made something similar too with her steamed prawns with glass noodles).  Ah, now I know how to treat the glass noodles if I wish to include it.

Anyway, thanks to my neighbour who inspired this dish and showed me that we can freeze chilli pastes which I found so useful that I do that now regularly.  Imagine the convenience at your disposal when you can just reach out into your freezer and grab a tub of freshly blended chilli paste to cook any dish you want.  That's pretty awesome and convenient, don't your think? ^.^

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