Cooking Braised Belgium Endives

braised belgium endives

I’ve never seen Belgium endives in Malaysia until recently. The Belgium endive is a dish I first sampled in Latvia during my second Europe backpacking trip two years ago. It didn’t look like much to me but I was told it’s good (couldn’t read anything coz Latvia doesn’t use a lot of English) so I ate it. It tasted better than it looks.

belgium endives

I was out shopping with my better half when I came across this bitter vegetable. Yes, this is one of those really bitter leafy greens but it becomes less so when cooked properly. Some people use sugar in their recipe but I decided to recreate the dish without that at home.

browning belgium endives

I bought a couple of packs of Belgium endives – enough for two people. Belgium endives retails for RM 29.90 per kg so it cost me RM 18 just for 500 grams of the vegetable. It’s quite easy to prepare – the traditional recipe for braised Belgium endives uses just a few ingredients you can find in any kitchen but takes a looong time to cook.

It’s supposed to be slow cooked and that’s how I did it – took me *two hours* to braise the Belgium endives.

sliced belgium endives

You will need:

  • Belgium endives
  • Butter (real butter, not margarine or any of that crap)
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice (from a real lemon)
  • Water

melting butter

I used about 3 heaped tablespoons of butter in my recipe. I had a stick of it and cut off a nice portion and melted it slowly. Be careful not to burn it! Use really low heat.

coring belgium endives

Meantime, prepare the Belgium endives by using a sharp knife to cut out a hard, fibrous core at it’s bottom. Once that’s out, you can proceed to slice it in half!

lemon

Brown the endives in the butter by putting it on a single layer with the cut side down and sprinkle salt and lemon juice over it.

belgium endive

Fill up the pan until the Belgium endives are 3/4 submerged in water and proceed to braise it at low heat.

braising endives

Remember to turn the endives over occasionally so both sides will be cooked! It’s done when the endives are tender and has absorbed *all* the water that was in the pan.

braised belgium endive

That’s all there is to it! I garnished it with some edible flowers since the dish looks a bit drab (and also coz the edible flowers provides a contrasting crisp texture to the soggy braised Belgium endives).

cooked belgium endive

It’s not the prettiest dish around but I highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it before. I gave some of it to my dear raw (it can be eaten in salads) and it’s very bitter and braising it will reduce that intensity. She did tell me it tasted bitter and slightly burnt. I prefer the term caramelized. smirk Braised Belgium endives should come out tender and buttery! :)

A trip to the SS2 wet market (pasar pagi)

wet market

I woke up really, really early during this long weekend coz I had always wanted to go to the wet market to shop for fresh produce with my dear but never could get myself to wake up in time. I’m glad I did coz going to the pasar pagi (morning market – don’t know why people here call it this) is fun! :)

fresh vegetables

The SS2 wet market is located at an intersecting lane and you’ll see a fair amount of vendors selling all sorts of stuff from chicken to vegetables (and everything in between). Pork butchers, fish mongers, they have it all!

fresh flower car

There’s even a car that’s filled with flowers – for sale!
(the fresh flowers, not the car, I presume)

fried dough

We got some piping hot yu tiaw (fried dough) to munch on while doing our weekly grocery shopping at the equivalent of the local market (instead of the supermarkets we usually go to).

yu tiaw

The deep fried dough is awesome when eaten straight out of the boiling oil! :)

bak chang

I also got two bak chang (glutinous rice dumplings) – the Dried Oyster Rice Dumpling has dried oysters, mushrooms, pork, salted egg, dried shrimp and chestnuts for RM 5.50 while the Salted Egg Rice Dumpling has all the above except for the dried oysters and with the addition of lintel / green bean for RM 4.50.

rice dumpling

It’s really good when we ate it later in the day. However, there is only 1 small oyster about the size of my index fingernail so I thought a RM 1 premium isn’t really justifiable. I wanted to try their Pillow Rice Dumpling too but it’s a 3 day order wait. This stall has been featured in the papers and for once it’s worth the hype! Highly recommended! :)

soy milk

My dear also bought this huge take away bag of soy milk for just RM 1. There’s about 1 liter of soy bean milk inside and the queue for this is insane – not because it’s good (it’s rather diluted) but coz you get a lot of bang for your buck.

live fish

We also looked at the fresh fish stalls – some of them had specimens that are still alive and kickin’ (or rather, swimming). smirk

fresh fish

I was interested in this huge eel that we later found out was called yellow conger eel. It’s RM 8 / kg.

eel

I bought two generously long slices for RM 9. We later cooked them three (3) ways and it was really good! I didn’t know it was an eel at first, I thought it was a fish. Ling insisted it was an eel and I still thought it was a fish so we Googled it and discovered my better half was *right* – it’s a seasonal eel!

kampong chicken

We also bought two chicken legs for RM 16.50 which I thought was a total rip off! It’s kampung chicken (free range chicken) and I was appalled that just one (1) chicken leg costs RM 8+. My dear told me the price range is about right. I’m used to supermarket chicken prices (the ones reared in stacked cages PETA types are always honking on about). Hot damn, that’s expensive!

I also found a vegetable which I thought was rather interesting so I got that and lotus root, which we haven’t cooked before. It made for a nice meal with the eel done 3 ways.

pork butcher

We also bought some pork ribs (to be cooked tonight!) before we headed to one of the food stalls located right inside SS2 wet market.

hakka curry mee

I had the Hakka Mee (RM 4) while she had the Curry Mee (RM 4). Mine had a bucket-load of MSG, which made it taste really nice. The owner/cook manning the stall is one grumpy lady though. I could tell she was slightly irritated when I ordered but for some reason or other, she didn’t take the piss out of me.

food stall

The woman who ordered after me was half of a middle-aged couple that just finished jogging and the owner raised her voice and was so rude to her that I wondered why they didn’t just walk away. We didn’t get the nasty treatment so I was thinking that this must be real good food for the other couple to take the abuse. The food wasn’t anything to write home about but it’s decent and cheap.

fresh coffee

It’s the coffee that really takes home the cake though – home brewed old style with muslin cloth sieves blackened after ages of filtering the coffee grounds and with a sheen of grease (from the frying of the coffee beans with butter, lard, margarine or ghee). It’s a perfect cuppa hot strong brewed coffee that kick started an awesome day of fun in the kitchen and quality time spent together during the long weekend.

us wet market

I’ll go to the local wet market again! The prices aren’t necessarily cheaper but the produce certainly is a lot fresher! :D

Gooey lady’s fingers with surimi

gooey ladyfingers with surimi

This is a recipe I remember eating a lot of during my first real relationship. My ex-girlfriend’s mother cooked this all the time and with a bit of effort I managed to replicate her recipe. I don’t eat a lot of vegetables but I like certain ones and this one is a hit. :)

okra

Ladyfingers or okra is quite easy to work with – my parents usually just dunk it in hot water for a couple of minutes and eat it just like that. It’s very healthy.

However, this is a better tasting version that I picked up from an ex-girlfriend’s mom (who’s a great cook). It requires:

ladyfingers surimi

Lady’s fingers (okra)
Surimi (crab sticks)
Tomato sauce
Dark soy sauce
Brown sugar

sauce

What makes this slightly different is all in the sauce. This sauce is very delicious when used with lady’s fingers. You’ll want to mix tomato sauce and dark soy sauce in a 1:1 ratio. Pour another measure of brown sugar (2:1 to the existing sauce mix) on top to sweeten the entire thing.

Surimi is meant to be the “treasure” beneath the bed of ladyfingers. Put it into boiling water and take it out after a few seconds. Surimi (crab sticks) cooks really fast so get ready to fish it out when it floats to the top (to me this means that it’s cooked, I could be mistaken). ;)

cooking surimi ladyfingers

Put the lady fingers into the boiling pot after that and wait for about 2 minutes. A spatula would be useful in speed cooking – just press the okra down into the hot water. Ladyfingers also doesn’t take long to cook – you want this to be slightly firm and crunchy on the outside.

While the ladyfingers are cooking, put a bit of hot water into the sauce mixture to melt the brown sugar. I just used the closest available one – straight from the pot. You just need a TINY (a bit of an oxymoron to use caps to emphasize moderation) amount so just sprinkle a little from the spatula you use for the lady fingers.

slice ladyfingers

Take the lady fingers out, chop off the head, and slice it vertically using a very sharp knife – two slices down each one is optimal but if you come across a particularly small finger, just once slice would do. This releases the Gooey Stuff (TM) that’s so good about okra.

sumiri

Just arrange the sliced lady fingers on top of the bed of surimi and pour the sauce over it. It’s now ready to eat! :D

arrange ladyfingers

This dish cools really fast so it’s best if you cook it last.

gooey ladyfingers

Serve immediately and savor the texture and tastes of the messy goo mixed with sauce and surimi and the occasional crunch of lady’s fingers. :)

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