Singapore Vegetable – Kai Lan and Sweet Potato Lemak

Spore - Kai Lan Sweet Potato Lemak 013 edited re-sized

A popular dish with my family and friends. A lovely addition to my repertoire of Nonya dishes. It is something different from the ever popular Nonya Chap Chye, Sambal Ladies’ Fingers and Sambal Kang Kong rendition. Thank you Periplus!

Nutritional facts on Sweet potatoes and Kai Lan.

Sweet potatoes are high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body: one serving of sweet potatoes can provide you with as much as 700% of the US RDA for Vitamin A. Sweet potatoes have a glycemic load of only 17 whilst a white potato’s GI is 29. Their high potassium content means sweet potatoes can alleviate muscle cramps which are often related to potassium deficiency. They are also gluten free.

Kai Lan may be described as Chinese Broccoli. It  is low in Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin B6, Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganes

Some comments about the Ingredients

What is blachan or belachan? It is actually fermented krill and shrimp mixed with salt into a paste. formed into blocks and dried. It has a strong smell and distinct taste. A common ingredient in South East Asian cooking as it create a deep flavour in its dishes. Blocks of blachan requires further preparation (baking in an oven or dry toasted in a hot wok to dry and crumble it ). Some manufacturers, for example Maggi, bottle a toasted version. My readers in the western world may find it  in the international aisle of a good supermarket. It lasts a long time when stored in the fridge and a little goes a long way.

SUBSTITUTES. Suitable substitutes for

  • shallots – fresh onions. However, the rempah will take a slightly longer time to caramelise.
  • Fresh red chillies – chilli powder or cayenne powder. Use between 1/4 to 1/2 level Tbsp
  • toasted Blachan –  Lee Kum Kee’s Shrimp Sauce or increase the  amount of dried shrimp in the recipe by 10 to 15 gm.

Preparation of Ingredients

STEP 1. Prepare a medium sized bowl of tap water with about 1 to 2 Tbsp of lemon juice to prevent sweet potato chunks from discolouring. Then peel sweet potatoes and cut them into 2.5 cm chunks.

STEP 2. Soak and wash Kai Lan. Remove leaves from stem. Peel the stems to remove fibres.

STEP 3. Assemble the Rempah (Spice Paste) ingredients. De-seed the chillies and cut into smaller pieces. Peel shallots, wash and cut them into smaller chunks to facilitate grinding. Wash the dried prawns and drain. Using your electric grinder or blender them into a fine paste.

Cooking

STEP 4. Heat wok over medium high heat for 2 to 3 mins. Add 1 Tbsp oil. Fry Rempah till the paste releases a fragrant aroma – this means that the ingredients have caramelised. This takes bout 5 to 7 mins. Meanwhile, drain sweet potato chunks and add to cooked rempah.

STEP 5 Fry both for another 3 mins. Meanwhile, boil 500 ml of water. Add water into wok. See photo below.

STEP 6. Add kai lan stems and cook for 1 min or so. Then add leaves next. Stir fry to mix well. Simmer to cook sweet potato chunks.

STEP 7. Add coconut santan and salt last. Lower heat to medium. Quick stir fry just to heat the coconut santan. Do not over heat as this will cause the coconut to curdle. Serve with rice.

RECIPE

Serves 4 to 6

  • 300 gm sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 600 gm kai lan
  • 120 ml coconut santan ( Kara UHT is suitable)
  • about 500 ml water
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Rempah (Spice Paste) Grind all ingredients below in a chopper blender to a paste.

  • 50 gm peeled shallots, cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 Tbsp dried shrimps, washed
  • 5 large red chillies, de-seeded if preferred.
  • 1/2 tsp toasted blachan
  • 1 Tbsp oil

Method

1. Prepare a medium sized bowl of tap water with about 1 to 2 Tbsp of lemon juice to prevent sweet potato chunks from discolouring. Then peel sweet potatoes and cut them into 2.5 cm chunks.

2. Soak and wash Kai Lan. Remove leaves from stem.Peel the stems to remove fibres.

3. Assemble the Rempah (Spice Paste) ingredients. De-seed the chillies and cut into smaller pieces. Peel shallots, wash and cut them into smaller chunks to facilitate grinding. Wash the dried prawns and drain. Using your electric grinder or blender them into a fine paste.

4. Heat wok over medium high heat for 2 to 3 mins. Add 1 Tbsp oil. Fry Rempah till the paste releases a fragrant aroma – this means that the ingredients have caramelised. This takes bout 5 to 7 mins. Meanwhile, drain sweet potato chunks and add to cooked rempah.

5. Fry both for another 3 mins. Meanwhile, boil 500 ml of water. Add water into wok.

6. Add kai lan stems and cook for 1 min or so. Then add leaves next. Stir fry to mix well. Simmer a short while to cook sweet potato chunks.

7. Add coconut santan and salt last. Lower heat to medium. Quick stir fry just to heat the coconut santan. Do not over heat as this will cause the coconut to curdle. Serve with Brown or Red or Mixed rice.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with rice. Depending on the number of people and their dietary preference at mealtime, this dish may be accompanied with other dishes. Suggestions are listed below.

HINT: Look into your fridge, freezer and larder to see what needs to be used up first before deciding. A sample weekly marketing checklist can be found here, click.

Chinese Soups

1. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon Soup. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here

3. Radishes and Dried Squid. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

5. Tang Ho with Fishballs. Click here

Meat Dishes

1. Beef Rendang (spicy). Click here

2. Singapore Chicken Curry (spicy). Click here.

2. Chicken Breast with Ketchup. Click here

3. Paper Wrapped Chicken (Baked). Click here

4. Pari Pari Style Chicken. Click here.

Seafood Dishes

1. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here

2. Fred Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

3. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked). Click here.

Vegetable and Tofu Dishes 

1. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here

2. Broccoli and Meat or Tofu Stir Fry. Click here

You may like to end this meal with a plate of cold, freshly cut seasonal fruits. Perhaps you had time to make a dessert like one of those listed below?

1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.

2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.

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