Made ngoh hiang yesterday! Otherwise known as loh bak in Malaysia, this is a five-spice pork roll wrapped in beancurd skin, steamed and then fried, like a local take on a pork sausage. There’s a Teochew variety and a Hokkien variety, where – probably among other things I’m not aware of – the Teochew contains yam and the Hokkien doesn’t. To be honest I think (and purists are free to agree to disagree – I know alot of people champion their yam) you can basically put anything you like in it and it’ll still taste pretty darn good – we tried one batch with fish paste and minced prawn too and it was yummy. The filling can be as simple or as complicated as you like.
Ngoh hiang means five aromas, named after the five-spice powder in the recipe. My childhood memories of ngoh hiang are all contained in various 清明节s (qing ming jie, or cheng meng, tomb sweeping day – where the whole clan gets on a bus and goes from cemetery to cemetery visiting and sprucing up – and sweeping off – the graves of our ancestors), where someone would bring steamed chicken and ngoh hiang for offerings. Afterwards we’d cart them back to the bus, and on the return journey the kids would start snacking on everything in the back (I still don’t know if this was taboo – but I don’t think my grandfather would have begrudged us his second-hand chicken and rolls). Ngoh hiang is family food for me (though at the moment five-spice mostly just reminds me of Michael McIntyre and always cracks me up which, believe it or not, is partly why I was so eager to cook with it).
I’ve said it’s pork rolls, but Sali can’t have pork so we used chicken instead:
About 500 grams of chicken, minced
About 200 grams of shrimp, minced
10 to 12 water chestnuts washed, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 teaspoonful of salt
1 teaspoonful of ground white pepper
1 teaspoonful of five-spice powder
3 tablespoonfuls of corn flour
Dried tao kee/ beancurd skin
2 teaspoonfuls of sesame oil (on my friend pak’s suggestion)
Kecap manis (sweet dark soya sauce) and/or sweet chilli sauce for dipping
(Ignore the fish paste; that was just for my fish paste experiment)
Place the chicken mince in a big bowl. Add a teaspoonful of corn flour and pepper and mix well.
Add the water chestnut, onion, carrot, five-spice powder, salt, remainder of the corn flour, sesame oil and the egg. Mix everything well.
Get out the giant sheet of beancurd skin, wipe it down with a damp cloth (not too wet because you don’t want it soggy) to help get rid of some of the salt (it’s really salty!). Cut into roughly 4×6 inch sheets.
Place your filling in a row like this and roll snugly within the beancurd skin (remember to leave a little space at each end but you don’t have to close them up, they’ll seal on their own during steaming).
Steam the rolls till they’re soft. At this point if you don’t want to eat them right away you can let them cool, then stick them in the freezer and store them for a couple of months before frying them.
Otherwise, let them cool for a bit and heat up a pan of hot oil. Fry the rolls till they turn brown. (Alternatively, you can slice them up first and then fry them, which gives you crisp surfaces all around.)
Remove from oil and drain. Slice and serve with sweet chilli sauce or kecap manis – or better yet both!