Notes from a Hakka Yong Tau Foo Party

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Note: The full recipe for HYTF can be found here.

When I cook Hakka Yong Tau Foo, it is almost always for a party.

It has been while since I last made this and along with the food team in my church, we had to find our bearings again. But it wasn't as difficult as we had feared. It all went very smoothly and about 100 diners enjoyed the unique dining experience at our Alpha Course last night.

Why HYTF for tonight? I was asked by the team to cook whatever I want as this was one of the last few meals I am doing in the church. It isn't quite the "Last Supper" but it is true that I will be moving to another church to serve as their pastor w.e.f. 1st July this year.

I was thinking of Japanese beef rice, using Sous Vide to 48-cooked some short rib beef to perfection. Or maybe coffee pork ribs and butter prawns. But the dishes will not engage the whole food team the way HYTF will. And so the decision was made.

How do you estimate for 100 pax? We did not take down notes from the last HYTF party (thus this blog post). But we did make a good guess and it was quite spot on, though on hindsight, we thought a little more filling will be better (i..e increase pork by a kg) :

3kg minced pork and 3 kg of fish meat
2 pieces of Mui Heong salted fish fillet (about 7 inches in length)
20 pieces of brinjal
12 pieces of bitter gourd
100 pieces of lady fingers (okra)
70 pieces of Tau Kwa (halved to 140)

Preparing the filling:

Batting Fish Fillet
Often, I will use a 2:1 pork-fish ratio. This time I went for a 1:1. The pork need to have a mix of some fat in it. Batang fish is my favourite for this as it has less bones that parang ("saito") and is easy to scrap the meat off. We minced it on a wooden chopping board (in 3 lots), adding the salted fish, garlic, some salt, corn flour and water. Each lot (2 kg in total of pork and fish) needed about 20 minutes of mincing using a pair of choppers. To each lot I added about 10 pieces of garlic, a bunch of spring onions, 3/4 piece of salted fish and some cornflour and water (about 3 tablespoons of each) and 2 tea spoon of salt. When the meat is minced enough, you should be able to shape some into a small ball without the meat sticking to your fingers.

Once the filing is done, the next stage is to fill the veg pieces. This is easy if you have many pair of hands and we had about 8. The work was done efficiently.

We bought bittergourd which had a smaller circumference so that it will not need too much filling. The filling is also more likely to stay intact when it is cooked. As for brinjal, we used medium size ones (about 8 inch long) and these were grown locally.
I use this bean curd skin brand for HYTF - from Sheng Shiong

The tricky thing is to choose the right bean curd skin. For this, I normally use a brand (skytime - see pic) from Malaysia which is sold in Sheng Siong. I like its texture and flavour. It was to be wet till it is pliable and you can use it to roll the filing in. Fabricating it can be a pain as the shape can be uneven.  3 X 4 inch rectangle will be about right. It is ok if the skin do not stick together as long as you keep  it together as you put it into the hot oil (using a a pair of tongs or chopsticks). Once it touches the oil, it will crisp and firm up.

As for the Tau Kwa, scoop out some bits to make the filling insertion easier.

The fish bones and heads were fried for a while (great idea from Wendy) and then added to some water and simmer for a fish stock. Normally, if I am cooking this at home, I will add the filled bitter gourd and cook so that w have a nice bitter gourd soup. As it was difficult to serve soup for so many, we decided to deep-fry all the HYTF pieces and use the stock to make a savoury sauce.

As for deep-frying, if you do it "fast and high" and drain the fried pieces properly, you can reduce the oiliness. I normally prefer to pan-sear the brinjal (slower with patches of burned parts) but the team prefer to deep fry it. They were right.

As for sauces, we made fresh chilli sauce, blending red chillies and adding some lime, sugar salt and water. Heat up the chillies mixture. This is important to reduce the raw taste of red chillies. The sweet sauce is made from Kwong Who Hing's sesame sauce. As for the savoury sauce, use the fish stock and to that, add some oyster sauce, tau cheong and thicken it with corn flour.

We serve the HYTF with Chee Cheng Fun. We also added more greens by blanching some kangkong, which ran out pretty quickly (we needed more than 8 bunches).

Was the work and effort worth it? Absolutely. I am thankful for the hard-working, mutually learning and joyful team. The HYTF was efficiently done and it was a unique and delicious dinner experience.

Hey team: it was a job well done!

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  1. Could you please tell how to make the sweet sauce?

  2. Two ways - use sesame sauce, or use soybean sauce (tau cheong) and sweeten, dilute it.