I am a banana. I freely admit it. A “banana” in Singapore is a person who grew up speaking English in the home and probably struggles with compulsory Chinese language examinations in school. I am not only a banana, I have banana children (which makes us a bunch of suckers for paying through the nose for Chinese tuition our whole lives). Being a banana I know very little about my roots, but I remember my paternal grandfather telling us that we were Eng Chun Hokkien (永春 or “yong chun”, a particular region in Fujian province where migrants settled in Batu Pahat and Muar in Johor, Malaysia. As a descendent of overseas Chinese, my Chinese identity has often resided in certain Chinese festivals as well as the food vocabulary that has persisted even as our language skills have declined. Thanks to living in South East Asia however, there has been a certain amount of assimilation and even the food we regularly eat have Malay and Indian overtones. I remember the first Chinese New Year i spent living in New York was when homesickness hit home badly. I wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year and trotted down to Chinatown to get stuff ready for the festival. i pretty much expected to find my favourite kueh bangkit and pineapple tarts in Chinatown and was slightly horrified that these things didn’t exist there. Not all the nian gao in the world could substitue what for me was the essence of CNY. Which was what started me on my lifelong interest in mastering recipes for local Singapore food, but that’s a story for another day.
Ngoh Hiang (五香) or Lor Bak (滷肉) is a Hokkien dish made from minced pork and prawns and wrapped in thin beancurd skin. The meat filling has a distinctive five spice flavour and goes excellently well with a sweetened flour sauce (only Buddha brand!).
I based this low carb version on the ngoh hiang recipe from Noobcook (this is a brilliant website on local food recipes and I so wish I had this resource when living in ang moh land years ago). For those who are not doing a low carb diet, you would do no better than to follow the recipe on that site; for those who want to make ngoh hiang slightly healthier you can try my suggested amended recipe. The main changes I made was to substitute arrowroot flour for regular flour (arrowroot 13g carb/100g; regular flour 77g carb/100g) and tapioca or jicama for water chestnut (tapioca 3.9g carb/100g; water chestnut 24g carb/100g)
LOW CARB NGOH HIANG
(Makes about 12 rolls)
- 40 grams bean curd skin wipe both sides with slightly damp cloth; then cut to 15×10 cm (6×4 in) pieces
- 1 egg white for securing the beancurd skin
- vegetable oil for deep frying
(A) Meat Filling
- 500 grams minced pork belly (I asked the pork butcher for the fatter cut of meat, so much for this dish being healthier :-D)
- 200 grams shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 500 grams prawns coarsely chopped after removing shells and veins
- 10 water chestnuts peeled and coarsely chopped OR use 150 g chopped tapioca (jicama) for low carb
- 2 tbsp chopped spring onions
- 1/2 carrot thinly shredded then chopped
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp five-spice powder (funny story – for the longest time I was wondering why my ngoh hiang tasted weird, one day the penny dropped when I discovered that my helper had been using ground allspice powder and not five spice powder. For those out there who don’t know, allspice powder is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (usually used to make Christmassy puddings, breads or cookies) whereas Chinese five spice powder is a mixture of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sze Chuan pepper and fennel seeds. Big difference…)
- 1/4 tsp white pepper powder
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
- Add (A) to a large bowl and season with (B). Mix thoroughly and marinade overnight in the fridge.
- To fold the ngoh hiang, lay a piece of cut bean curd skin on the work surface. Place two and half tbsp of meat filling in the lower half of the bean curd skin, leaving a small gap at the bottom and at the sides. Fold the bottom flap up and dab the side edges with egg white. Fold the sides over the meat filling and roll the meat roll tightly towards the top. Secure the remaining corner with egg white to seal the roll.
- Prepare a steamer lined with parchment paper. Arrange the ngoh hiang such that they do not touch one another, and steam in batches for 10 minutes each time. Let the steamed ngoh hiang cool and air dry completely on a wire rack.
- Heat vegetable oil in wok. Deep fry in batches, for about 2-3 minutes, until the ngoh hiang are golden brown. Drain excess oil on paper towels/tempura paper before serving.
Just a note that ngoh hiang should be served hot with sweet flour sauce, but if low-carbing, avoid the sweet sauce and use some sambal chilli instead. Truth to tell, the ngoh hiang is good to eat on its own – real flavour in a bite. Also ngoh hiang can be part of other dishes, such as Lor Mee for which I have posted a low carb version of before.