With thoughts of home and her­itage, Sin­ga­pore's culi­nary doyenne Vi­o­let Oon, of Vi­o­let Oon Sin­ga­pore, delves into her ar­chive of trea­sured recipes


Chef Vi­o­let Oon shares six of her trea­sured recipes

Steamed Duck With Gluti­nous Rice Serves 6 to 8

A large stuffed bird al­ways sig­ni­fies a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, says chef Oon. She loves this dish as it re­minds her of the 10-course feasts she en­joyed dur­ing her child­hood days in the 1950’s.

1 large fat duck around 2kg, cleaned

10 cups veg­etable oil

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp salt

½ tsp five spice pow­der

3 slices old gin­ger

4 bunches spring onions

3 pcs star anise

For the stuff­ing

100g gluti­nous rice, soaked overnight

8 whole dried mush­rooms, soaked, drained and quar­tered

180g dried chest­nuts, soaked in hot wa­ter 2 to 3 hours

150g Can­tonese roast pork (siew yoke), sliced

10 shal­lots, peeled and halved

3 tbsp veg­etable oil

2 tbsp oys­ter sauce

⅛ tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

¾ tsp five spice pow­der

⅛ tsp ground white pep­per

For the sauce

50g car­rots, peeled and sliced

100g broc­coli, cut into flo­rets

8 fresh baby corn, halved di­ag­o­nally Gravy from the steamed duck,

oil re­moved

1 tsp sugar

¼ tsp salt, or to taste

1½ tbsp oys­ter sauce

100ml chicken stock or wa­ter

3 tbsp corn­flour mixed with 3 tbsp wa­ter

1. Make the stuff­ing. Place a wok over high heat. When it starts to smoke, add 3 tbsp oil. Heat the oil for about 1 min, then sauté shal­lots un­til light golden. Add mush­rooms and stir-fry an­other 3 mins. Add chest­nuts and roast pork, stir-fry un­til fra­grant. Add rice and stir-fry for about 5 mins till translu­cent and half-cooked. Stir in the re­main­ing stuff­ing in­gre­di­ents, heat through and set aside. (The stuff­ing can be made a day in ad­vance and stored in the fridge. Be­fore us­ing, leave it at room tem­per­a­ture for 1 to 2 hours.) 2. Pre­pare the duck. Chop off 5cm of the but­tocks to re­move the 2 bul­let-shaped glands which are the source of the un­pleas­ant gamey duck smell. (Do not touch them or your hands will smell.) Wash and pat dry.

3. Stuff the cav­ity full with the fill­ing and use a skewer to seal the open­ing. Rub dark soy sauce all over the duck, leave aside for 5 mins, then rub salt over the duck. Re­tain any ex­cess dark soy sauce. 4. Place a clean wok over high heat and put a small low round wire rack (like a steamer rack) at the bot­tom of the wok. (This will sup­port the duck so that its skin would not come into con­tact with the bot­tom of the wok and cause un­even brown­ing.) Add the 10 cups oil. When it starts to smoke, stick a meat hook into the neck of the duck. Hold­ing on to the hook, lower the duck into the oil with breast side down. Deep-fry for about 3-5 mins till golden brown. As the duck will not be fully sub­merged in the oil, la­dle hot oil over the ex­posed parts of the duck to cook it, while still hold­ing on to the hook.

5. Gen­tly turn the duck over after 3 to 4 mins and deep-fry a fur­ther 5 mins till golden brown. Re­move the duck and drain on a large sieve or strainer. 6. When cool enough to han­dle, rub the five-spice pow­der all over the duck. Place the spring onions and gin­ger in a deep metal dish large enough to hold the duck. Place duck on top and pour over with any re­main­ing dark soy sauce from Step 3. Top with star anise. Steam for 4 hours over medium high heat. 7. Make the sauce. Drain the duck and set aside the liq­uid left over from the steam­ing. Blanch the veg­eta­bles un­til al dente. Drain and set aside. Heat a wok, add in the liq­uid from steam­ing, sugar, salt, oys­ter sauce, chicken stock or wa­ter, and the corn­flour mix­ture. Bring to a boil for about 2-3 mins till the sauce thick­ens. Add in the veg­eta­bles, boil un­til cooked, then turn off the heat.

8. To serve, place the duck on a serv­ing plat­ter, ar­range the veg­eta­bles around the duck and pour the sauce over. (Apart from the steam­ing liq­uid, you can make the rest of the sauce a day in ad­vance and store it in the fridge.)

Prawn and Peanut Dip Serves 6

Chef Oon loves dips served with veg­eta­bles or crack­ers. She en­coun­tered this dish many years ago and fell in love with how easy it was to make.

1¼ cups thick co­conut cream, store­bought, or squeezed from

2 grated co­conuts mixed with ½ cup wa­ter

100g minced pork with a lit­tle fat, finely chopped

100g prawn meat, finely chopped

60g large white onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

⅛ tsp salt, ac­cord­ing to taste

1½ cups toasted peanuts, roughly pounded

20 mini keropok, store­bought

12 rice cakes, store­bought

10 but­ter let­tuce leaves

1. Mix ½ the co­conut milk with the minced pork and prawn and stir well to break up the meat.

2. Boil re­main­ing co­conut milk in a small saucepan. Turn heat down to low and add all the re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents, ex­cept for the peanuts. Stir well and boil for 1 min.

3. Add the peanuts and con­tinue to stir over medium heat till the pork is cooked and the mix­ture has thick­ened. Set aside to cool.

4. Place dip in a bowl and serve with mini keropok, rice cakes and but­ter let­tuce leaves.

Minced Beef Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste Serves 2

Chef Oon learnt to make this dish from a chef when she was in Hong Kong in the late 1970s on as­sign­ment. "I was fas­ci­nated to dis­cover the Can­tonese shrimp paste 'har cheong' and learnt how to use it.”

2 eggs

2 tbsp wa­ter

½ tsp salt

1 cup sun­flower oil

4 cloves gar­lic, finely chopped

2 cups long-grain rice, cooked

100g minced top­side beef

1 tsp corn­flour

30g young gin­ger, juli­enned

1½ tbsp Chi­nese shrimp paste (har cheong)

2 tbsp finely sliced spring onions

1. Beat eggs with wa­ter and salt till wellmixed but not fluffy. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a fry­ing pan and fry the egg into a thin omelette. Let it cool, then cut into strips. Set aside.

2. In a wok, heat up an­other 2 tbsp oil, sauté half of the gar­lic for about 30 secs till fra­grant, then add in the cooked rice. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 mins un­til the in­di­vid­ual rice grains are all nicely coated with oil. Dish out and set aside.

3. Us­ing your hands, mix the minced beef with 2 tsp oil and corn­flour. The oil keeps the mince moist and sep­a­rate, while the corn­flour pre­vents the meat from dry­ing out while be­ing cooked.

4. In a wok, heat the re­main­ing oil till very hot and deep-fry the mar­i­nated beef till cooked, about 20 secs. Drain on a sieve and add to the rice.

5. Re­move all the oil in the wok leav­ing 2 tbsp. Heat the oil and sauté the re­main­ing gar­lic, gin­ger and shrimp paste till fra­grant. Add the beef and rice back into the wok and stir-fry for 30 secs.

6. Add in the spring onions, eggs and toss for an­other 30 secs. Ad­just sea­son­ing and serve.

* This is the Can­tonese method of ‘yeow chum’ which means to ‘soak in oil’. In­stead of boil­ing in wa­ter, the in­gre­di­ents are ‘boiled’ in oil and this al­lows for each piece of mince to be cooked to equal done­ness.

Khong Bak Mui Choy Serves 6 to 8

Says chef Oon, “I love the skill and art of Hakka food. It may seem very 'coun­try' but this dish in­cor­po­rates so­phis­ti­cated culi­nary tech­niques.”

300g salty mui choy

300g sweet mui choy

800g square piece of belly pork with skin on**

3 tbsp veg­etable oil

8 cloves gar­lic, chopped finely

½ tsp salt

4 tsp sugar

3 tbsp thick dark soy sauce

1½ cups pork stock

2 tbsp Chi­nese white wine (pi­jiu) or yel­low wine (hu­a­tiao­jiu)

1. Pre­pare the mui choy. Wash the salt off mui choy, drain and re­peat with fresh tap wa­ter sev­eral times, then soak for ½ hr. It is best to use mostly stalk rather than leaves. So dis­card ½ of the leaves, squeeze dry the re­main­ing leaves and set aside. Soak the hard stems in more fresh wa­ter for an ex­tra ½ hr for the sweet mui choy and 1 hr for the salty mui choy to re­move the ex­cess salt. Drain and squeeze dry.

2. Cut away and dis­card the hard, solid root of the mui choy. Slice the stems and leaves of all the mui choy into 2cm lengths. You'll want about 300g stems and 200g leaves. Store away any ex­cess. (The mui choy can be pre­pared a few days in ad­vance. Wrap them in cling film, store in the fridge un­til re­quired.) 3. Place pork in a saucepan and add enough wa­ter to fully im­merse it. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 mins, then turn off heat, and cover the pan. Let the pork cool com­pletely for about 6 to 8 hours. Re­move the pork and set aside two cups of the pork stock.

4. Cut the cooled pork into 2 rec­tan­gu­lar pieces, then into 1 to 1½ cm thick slices. 5. Heat the wok over high heat, add oil and sauté chopped gar­lic un­til fra­grant. Add pork, stir-fry for ½ min, then add in salt, sugar, dark soy sauce and 1½ cups of the stock. Bring to a boil, then add in the wine and sim­mer for 15 mins over medium heat.

6. Re­move pork slices and set aside. Add the mui choy into the gravy and sim­mer for 10 to 15 mins till the gravy thick­ens. 7. Place the pork slices skin side down in a heat-proof bowl. Ar­range the veg­eta­bles in the mid­dle and pour stock over. Press down well.

8. Steam for 2½ hours over high heat till the meat is break­away ten­der. Leave aside to cool a lit­tle. In­vert the bowl over a plate, and serve the pork and mui choy as part of a Hakka meal.

** This dish in­cor­po­rates the Chi­nese culi­nary tech­nique of poach­ing a large piece of meat un­til semi-cooked. Ac­cord­ing to chef Oon, this en­sures that once sliced into smaller pieces, the meat keeps its shape. This is called “twice­cooked meat”.

Hakka Stuffed Mush­room Wrapped in Caul Serves 10-12

Stuffed mush­rooms wrapped in pig’s caul fat with Hakka yong tau foo fill­ing is a dish for spe­cial oc­ca­sions like Chi­nese New Year and birth­days.

For pig’s caul lin­ing

400g pig’s caul fat* 3 to 4L wa­ter 2 tsp salt

For Hakka pork fill­ing

6 tbsp veg­etable oil

3 tbsp dried cut­tle­fish, finely juli­enned

300g fatty pork, minced

150g fish meat, minced

1½ tbsp tapi­oca flour

4 to 6 tbsp wa­ter

½ tsp salt

1½ tbsp spring onions, chopped

3 tsp deep-fried dried flat fish (pee hee)**, pounded

6 wa­ter chest­nuts, peeled and diced

1 tsp fish sauce

For the sauce

2 tbsp veg­etable oil

2 cloves gar­lic, pounded

1 tbsp oys­ter sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce ¼ tsp sesame oil

2 cups su­pe­rior stock

For the mush­rooms

20 dried mush­rooms, soaked, then squeezed dry

6 cups veg­etable oil

1 to 2 tsp salt

Large pot wa­ter

1. Pre­pare the pig’s caul fat. Soak caul fat for 15min in 3L wa­ter with 2 tsp salt. Spread the mem­brane out in the wa­ter— it will float—and wash well. Drain and re­peat soak­ing and wash­ing 2 to 3 times in fresh batches of wa­ter. Drain on a wire rack.

2. Line a serv­ing tray with pa­per tow­els and gen­tly spread out the pig’s caul fat. Cut the caul fat with a pair of scis­sors into 15 by 15 cm pieces. Top with a plas­tic sheet and an­other piece of pa­per towel. Re­peat till you have cut and laid out all the caul fat.

3. Pre­pare the Hakka pork fill­ing. Heat a wok. Add 6 tbsp oil and when hot, add in the cut­tle­fish and stir-fry for about 1 to 2 mins. Drain and cool.

4. Mix pork, fish and tapi­oca flour in a large basin. Add about 4 tbsp wa­ter and the salt and knead till the wa­ter is ab­sorbed and the mix­ture is springy. Add more wa­ter if the mix­ture feels dry.

5. Lift the mix­ture and throw it against the side of the basin about 10 times till the mix­ture is springy.

6. Add the spring onions, fried cut­tle­fish, pounded pee hee, wa­ter chest­nuts and fish sauce into the mix­ture. Knead well and throw it against the tub for an­other

10 times. The fill­ing is now ready. (This can be done one day in ad­vance and stored in the fridge.)

7. Make the sauce. Heat a wok and add in the oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the gar­lic for about 2 mins till fra­grant. Add all the re­main­ing sauce in­gre­di­ents and mush­rooms. Braise over medi­um­low heat for 30 mins till the liq­uid has thick­ened. Drain mush­rooms and set aside. Re­tain the gravy.

8. Fill each mush­room cap with 1½ tbsp of fill­ing and wrap the filled mush­room with one sheet of the pre­pared pig’s caul. To wrap, place the mush­room on a sheet of pig’s caul lin­ing and fold the sides of the lin­ing in­wards over the mush­room as if you were cling-wrap­ping it. Re­peat with an­other sheet of pig's caul lin­ing. 9. Steam the stuffed mush­rooms over medium heat for about 6 to 8 mins till the meat mix­ture is cooked. While steam­ing, lift the lid of the pot oc­ca­sion­ally to re­lease the build up of steam.

10. When done, place the mush­rooms on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 mins. (You can pre­pare this dish up to this point one day in ad­vance. Cool the mush­rooms com­pletely, cover with cling film and store in the fridge till ready to pro­ceed.)

11. Heat the 6 cups oil. Deep-fry the mush­rooms over medium heat till the caul fat is golden brown. Drain.

12. Put re­served brais­ing liq­uid into a pan and bring to a boil. Add in the deep-fried mush­rooms and sim­mer for about 5-6 mins till the sauce is ab­sorbed into the mush­rooms. Serve on a bed of let­tuce leaves.

* Pig’s caul fat, also called ‘chee mong yeow’ in Can­tonese, is the lin­ing of the pig’s stom­ach. Or­der it from your pork seller at least 1 day in ad­vance as each pork stall has only 1 or 2 of them.

** This is also known as 'pee hee' in Hokkien and 'ti poh' in Teochew.

Hot Lamb Shank or Mut­ton Curry Serves 4 to 6

Says chef Oon, “This curry is best eaten at least a day after cook­ing to al­low the flavours to fully de­velop. Re­heat by slow cook­ing on the stove or in the mi­crowave oven."

2 whole lamb shanks (or 1 kg leg of mut­ton)

2L boil­ing wa­ter

200g + 20g old gin­ger

3 large Bom­bay onions, peeled

6 cloves gar­lic, peeled

100g meat curry pow­der (store­bought)

4 to 5 cups ad­di­tional wa­ter

6 tbsp veg­etable oil

3 sprigs curry leaves

3 tbsp canned tomato purée

5 whole green chill­ies, halved length­wise

5 whole red chill­ies, halved length­wise

3 ripe toma­toes, quar­tered

2 tsp salt

Juice of 5 li­mau kes­turi or

cala­mansi limes

½ cup yo­ghurt, op­tional


1 sprig curry leaves

2 red chill­ies, cut into 4cm lengths

2 green chill­ies, cut into 4cm lengths

1 cup veg­etable oil

1. Cut the mut­ton into large 4cm cubes; if us­ing lamb shanks, leave them whole. Cut the 200g of gin­ger into 2cm pieces and smash them to re­lease the flavours.

2. Boil about 2L of wa­ter in a wok, or enough to cover the meat. Add the gin­ger and bring to the boil. Add in the meat and bring to a boil again for 15-20 mins if us­ing mut­ton. For lamb shanks, boil for 10 mins. Drain the meat and dis­card the wa­ter. (This helps to re­duce the gamey smell of the meat and gets rid of ex­cess blood.) 3. Mean­while, place the large onions, 20g gin­ger and gar­lic into a food pro­ces­sor or mor­tar and pes­tle and grind to a fine paste.

4. Mix the curry pow­der with 60ml (4 tbsp) wa­ter to form a thick paste.

5. Heat the oil in the wok, add the onion mix­ture and stir-fry for 5 mins till the spices are fra­grant. Add the curry pow­der paste and fry till fra­grant, about 5 mins, and then add the meat and curry leaves. Stir-fry till the meat changes colour.

6. Add the tomato purée, chill­ies, cut toma­toes and stir-fry for about 1 min. 7. Add the re­main­ing 4 to 5cups wa­ter and add salt, bring to the boil and turn the heat to medium and sim­mer. Lamb shanks will take around 2 hrs while the tougher mut­ton will take 1 to 2 hrs more. Add more wa­ter if nec­es­sary.

8. When it is ready, the meat should be ten­der and the gravy of a coat­ing con­sis­tency. Add lime juice and yo­ghurt, bring to a boil and sim­mer for 1 min. Turn off heat and ad­just sea­son­ing. 9. Pre­pare the gar­nish. Deep-fry curry for a few sec­onds till the colour changes. Set aside. Deep-fry the chill­ies till they go limp. Gar­nish and serve.

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