NOTE: This post is also submitted to celebrate
Merdeka Open House 2011: Makan Through Malaysia which is in conjunction with Malaysia’s National Day on 31 August 2011.
“Hey sweetheart, how about I cook you something tonight that’s not on the menu of any restaurant in Sydney?!”
Mysaucepan knows instinctively that something is up when I make an unusual offer like this.
“What did you do wrong now??” she barks at my offer.
“What do you mean?” I say, genuinely puzzled.
“Well, this seems too good to be true, besides I doubt there is anything you can cook that we cannot find in any Sydney restaurant”.
To challenge her assertion, I confidently declare, “OK, I bet there is no restaurant in Sydney that can replicate my interpretation of Ampang Yong Tau Foo”.
Yong Tau Foo or braised tofu in Cantonese has its origins in China. In Malaysia, YTF is made popular by hawker stalls within the Ampang vicinity of Kuala Lumpur.
Through the years, YTF has evolved to include stuffing fish paste into a multitude of fresh vegetables the most common and popular being okra, eggplant, red chillies and bitter gourd.
The pioneering YTF stalls in Ampang built up a legendary reputation of serving the best YTF in Malaysia. As a result, newer hawker stalls that subsequently came into business would invariably name their stalls “Ampang Yong Tau Foo” to attract the legion of YTF fans even though these stalls may be located in other parts of Kuala Lumpur or even other states in Malaysia.
With my YTF suggestion, we decided to invite friends for a YTF party because I like YTF to be an interactive dinner party similar to a chinese “steamboat”. With this style of eating, it is a case of “the more the merrier” where diners can choose their own YTF pieces to be braised in a communal hotpot.
As Mysaucepan prepares the YTF by stuffing chillies, eggplant and okra with fish paste, I light up my favourite buddha with tea lights and set the dining table for our guests.
Sydneysiders are fortunate because there is a variety of fish paste available in Asian grocery stores. Some are plain fish paste and other have a combination of vegetable bits, dried shrimp and other ingredients which give the paste a little more flavour. They can usually be found in the frozen sections of the store along with chinese dumplings and fish balls.
I make slits into the vegetables while Mysaucepan has mastered a technique of stuffing the vegetables and tofu puffs very quickly using a knife.
For tonight, we have used a combination of plain and combo fish paste and they are both equally good although the combo type is a little firmer in texture.
I find the task of preparing YTF quite enjoyable when ready made fish paste is widely available in Sydney. Slitting the vegetables correctly ensures they can be easily stuffed and seared.
Ingredients Vegetables and fish paste 15 – 20 okra or ladies fingers *Deep fried tofu puffs generally come in small cubes , medium, large or triangular pieces. Stock 4 chicken carcass, fat trimmed and rinsed in hot water Dipping sauces Hoisin sauce** ** Hoisin sauce is made of fermented bean paste, sugar and water and it has a sweet savoury taste. It can be quite thick from a bottle and can be watered down with a little hot water. Method Vegetables and fish paste 1. Make slit incisions into okra, red chillies, eggplant and tofu puffs only on one side of the vegetables. Tip 1: Slit eggplant crosswise diagonally into 3cm thick pieces, then slit the middle of each piece two thirds so that the entire piece is secure after stuffing with fish paste. 2. Using a knife, scoop fish paste and stuff evenly into the vegetables. 3. Cut tofu skin into 15cm squares and wrap a little fish paste into rolls. 4. Heat up a medium size pan with a little vegetable oil and gently sear the vegetables, tofu puffs and tofu rolls on the outside until slightly brown. Tip 2: Sear okra first as it does not absorb as much oil as the eggplant and tofu puffs. The red chillies should be seared last to prevent its spicy juices from mixing with the other items in the pan. 5. Add a little vegetable oil and coat each rice noodle roll, then separately steam for approximately 15 minutes until soft. Tip 3: You do not need to completely cook the items as they are to be braised later. Stock 1. Gently simmer chicken carcasses and pork bones in 6 litres of water until carcasses are soft. Serving For serving YTF steamboat style, use a portable stove gas or electric cooker as a hotpot and present all seared vegetables, tofu puffs and tofu rolls to be individually cooked by guests. Fill up portable cooker with chicken stock and simmer until it starts to boil. Then add YTF items to braise. Alternatively, you can braise all the items with the chicken stock and serve in large serving bowls with the braising stock. Drizzle hoisin sauce, chilli sauce onto rice noodle rolls or chee cheong fun and sprinkle roasted sesame seeds and sesame oil and serve immediately as entree.
5 – 6 eggplant, aubergine or brinjal (long slender type as opposed to large round eggplant)
6 – 8 fresh red chillies (seeded for a milder spice level)
1 bunch shallots, finely diced
1 bunch coriander, finely diced
3 packs of 400gm pack of fish paste
1 packet of firm white silken tofu
2 packets of medium or large deep fried tofu puffs*
1 packet of firm tofu skin (soaked in cold water to rehydrate)
2 packets of rice noodle rolls or chee cheong fun
3 pieces of pork bones, fat trimmed and rinsed in hot water
2 tablespoon white peppercorns
Salt to taste
Chilli and garlic sauce (ABC brand)
2. Crack white peppercorns with pestle and mortar and add into the stock.
3. Gradually add 4 – 5 tablespoon salt to taste.
Vegetables and fish paste
15 – 20 okra or ladies fingers
*Deep fried tofu puffs generally come in small cubes , medium, large or triangular pieces.
4 chicken carcass, fat trimmed and rinsed in hot water
** Hoisin sauce is made of fermented bean paste, sugar and water and it has a sweet savoury taste. It can be quite thick from a bottle and can be watered down with a little hot water.
Vegetables and fish paste
1. Make slit incisions into okra, red chillies, eggplant and tofu puffs only on one side of the vegetables.
Tip 1: Slit eggplant crosswise diagonally into 3cm thick pieces, then slit the middle of each piece two thirds so that the entire piece is secure after stuffing with fish paste.
2. Using a knife, scoop fish paste and stuff evenly into the vegetables.
3. Cut tofu skin into 15cm squares and wrap a little fish paste into rolls.
4. Heat up a medium size pan with a little vegetable oil and gently sear the vegetables, tofu puffs and tofu rolls on the outside until slightly brown.
Tip 2: Sear okra first as it does not absorb as much oil as the eggplant and tofu puffs. The red chillies should be seared last to prevent its spicy juices from mixing with the other items in the pan.
5. Add a little vegetable oil and coat each rice noodle roll, then separately steam for approximately 15 minutes until soft.
Tip 3: You do not need to completely cook the items as they are to be braised later.
1. Gently simmer chicken carcasses and pork bones in 6 litres of water until carcasses are soft.
For serving YTF steamboat style, use a portable stove gas or electric cooker as a hotpot and present all seared vegetables, tofu puffs and tofu rolls to be individually cooked by guests.
Fill up portable cooker with chicken stock and simmer until it starts to boil. Then add YTF items to braise.
Alternatively, you can braise all the items with the chicken stock and serve in large serving bowls with the braising stock.
Drizzle hoisin sauce, chilli sauce onto rice noodle rolls or chee cheong fun and sprinkle roasted sesame seeds and sesame oil and serve immediately as entree.
Tofu or beancurd skin is a surface film that gently solidifies during the simmering process of manufacturing soy milk. This surface film is collected and then dried to become either crispy or firm yellowish sheets of tofu and loosely called “tofu skin”.
We use firm tofu skin to wrap fish paste into a roll to be seared.
Any remaining fish paste can be rolled into fish balls.
Sear the beancurd rolls until they are a little crispy and brown on the outside, then set aside to cool.
Similarly, sear the tofu puffs until they are a little crispy and brown on the outside, then set aside to cool.
If the items are seared long enough to gently cook the fish paste inside, they are delicious when dipped into a combination of hoisin and chilli sauce.
Okra should be seared first as it is less likely to absorb oil, unlike eggplant and tofu puffs which are like sponges when being cooked.
Sear the tofu rolls with a little vegetable oil until it is slightly brown and crispy on the outside. Then set aside to cool.
In my humble opinion, an oaky chardonnay works well with YTF, which is a relatively flexible meal for wine pairing because of its light and gentle flavours.
The 2007 Giant Steps chardonnay from Yarra valley in Victoria is a beautiful wine with its gentle oak flavours. It is a fairly strong chardonnay with 14% alcohol content even though its flavours are mild.
I love these electric tea lights that my mum bought for me on one of her recent trips to China. They have a warm flickering glow that does a great job in simulating the real tea lights and can last up to 6 hours when fully charged. The best thing is they are rechargeable, extremely inexpensive and not messy at all which the regular tea lights can be at times.
I use a combination of the electric tea lights with the regular tea lights for one of my favourite buddha light features.
Our dining table is set and we listen to some soft music as we wait for the arrival of our dinner guests.
Molly brings a beautiful dish of mackerel fish paste with silken tofu, chilli and broccoli.
This dish is obviously a perfect complement for YTF and its flavours is enhanced with a gentle drizzle of flavoursome garlic oil with its crispy golden garlic bits.
Chee cheong fun or rice noodle roll is the quintessential accompaniment for YTF. Any noteworthy YTF stall in Malaysia will also offer this item on its menu.
Each and every silky soft layer of the rice noodles can be felt on my tongue and the roasted sesame seeds add a smoky flavour and texture to this familiar taste from Malaysia.
“This is truly comfort food at its very best”, I think to myself as I bite into each morsel laden with hoisin and chilli sauce.
Firm white tofu is always popular in YTF. It relatively neutral taste complements all the other items and it tastes great with hoisin and chilli sauce.
A 2011 Villa Maria sauvignon blanc (Private Bin) is as dependable as ever. Perhaps a little too young, its colour is so faint it is almost clear. Nevertheless, it is still notably a notch up from the regular Villa Maria with its fresh tropical flavours and a lingering palate.
I like this sauvignon blanc with YTF because of its clean and subtle flavours that complement the light and subtle flavours of fish and vegetables.
I love the bright and vibrant red and green colours of the fresh chillies and okra. Searing it first on a hot pan imparts a healthy charred brown colour and adds flavour to these items when they are eventually braised in the chicken broth.
For the bolder drinkers in the party, a 2007 Setanta Cuchulain shiraz from Adelaide Hills in South Australia is bold with hints of spicy cloves and cinnamon.
The legend of Setanta is just as impressive as the strong and robust flavours of the wine itself.*
Readers, is this a sight that can be seen in any Sydney restaurant? If so, please tell me because I want to know about it.
On the other hand, Yong Tau Foo this good, do I really need to know about any restaurant offering it?
The beauty about having YTF “steamboat” style is that I don’t have to do any further cooking. It is an interactive dinner where my guests have a choice to cook whichever items they like in the communal hotpot and then fish it out on their own minutes later.
As the dinner progresses, the broth in the hotpot becomes even more flavoursome as more items are added to be braised.
“I have already had four bowls of this delicious soup”, yells out one of our guests enthusiastically.
And it looks like the first batch of stuffed vegetables have disappeared in no time. But we have more of these beautifully stuffed vegetables and tofu puffs.
Best of all, any left overs make an even better meal the next day with this soup and some rice vermicelli and I’m already thinking about my Sunday lunch or dinner with these beautiful leftovers.
A 2009 Buller Wines Reserve cabernet sauvignon is softer than the Setanta Cuchulain shiraz and I find its soft oak undertones rather elegant.
I kid you not but I am sure I taste some distinctively sweet hints of rambutans although I am a little apprehensive to share this thought with the wine connoisseurs within our party.
Nicole’s raspberry cake looks beautiful and sweet, just like her.
It is firm on the outside but delicately soft on the inside, just like her.
I slice up some fresh bananas which Molly brought to accompany her wonderful Malaysian dessert and added some Californian cherries for good measure.
Molly’s delightful bo bo cha cha with fresh bananas is a refreshing twist. The coconut milk is light and the sweet potato and yam are both tender and sweet.
So dear readers, do you know of any restaurant in Sydney or the city where you live that serves good Yong Tau Foo on its menu?
Click on any of the photos to view ChopinandMysaucepan‘s favourite recipes or simply click here.
18 Millennium Court
New South Wales 2128
Tel: +61 2 9352 1388
Details of wines consumed with our Yong Tau Foo party
Giant Steps Winery
Giant Steps / Innocent Bystander
336 Maroondah Highway
Healesville, Victoria 3777
Tel: +61 3 5962 6111
Business / cellar door:
Open everyday except Christmas Day
Cellar door open 10am – 6pm daily
Restaurant open 10am – 10pm daily, 8am on weekends and public holidays (Reservations: please call +61 3 5962 6111 or 5962 2533)
Villa Maria (Marlborough winery)
Cnr Paynters & New Renwick roads
Marlborough, New Zealand
Tel + 64 3 520 8470
23 Range road north
South Australia 5131
Tel: +61 8 8390 5516
* Legend of Setanta
Thinking all the guests had arrived at his feast to honour King Conchubar, Culain released his savage hound, said to possess the strength of a hundred to guard his house.
Setanta, arriving late, slew the hound as it lunged at him. In response to Culain’s vexation at the loss of his protector, Setanta vowed to guard Culain’s estate until he raised a new hound.
Cathbad the Druid, in praise of young Setanta, bestowed upon him the name Cuchulain, (hound of Culain).
This was the first of many courageous deeds, which established him as Ireland’s greatest and most favoured warrior.
Murray Valley Highway
Tel: +61 3 5037 6305
Once again I love your photos in this post. Looks like a fun time!
Hi Claire, we had a great time and thanks for dropping by!
Wow, everything looks delicious…I love the idea of stuffing fish paste in veggies and I love the dry bean curd.
Hope you have a wonderful week ahead
Hi Juliana, the fish paste was really delicious in itself and stuffed with the veggies, it was awesome!
Everything looks so spectacular! You 2 are the cutest!
Hi Maris, we have our moments too!
Wow, you can even get Hakka fish paste in Sydney! ? You are making me crave for Ampang YTF now….I usually love the fried beancurd skin (yes, just the skin, deep fried) in Ampang YTF…or maybe…I enjoy all fried items in Ampang YTF….hahahah…except eggplants maybe? cos I am not a fan of eggplants.
Hi tigerfish, I was never an eggplant fan until I realised just how delicious it is if cooked in certain styles. One of my fave is Sichuan style eggplant with a thick oyster sauce.
What a fantastic idea for a party! I am absolutely in love with fish paste stuffed veggies and always get them at yum char but, somehow, never thought to make them at home..
Love YTF too, haven’t had that in a while, I love how crunchy it is when it’s deep fried
Hi Lucy, I love the YTF at yum cha too as long as the sauce is not too starchy which it can be.
Wow, DIY yong tau fu! They look real good It’s been awhile since I have eaten YTF, at least 5 years since we moved from Oz (YTF is non-existent in Japan, and we hardly eat out as a family at Chinese restaurants in HK because my son is allergic to soy, amongst other things.)
Hi Expat Gourmand, YTF has become our recent new favourite and we would be doing this a lot more at home.
Your table setting looks professional! What a lovely way to eat, I’d love to give it a go one day!
Hi JasmyneTea, I’m sure you will really enjoy YTF coz it’s so tasty and a fun way to eat for everyone.
Anything I cook pales in comparison. When are you both opening your own restaurant?
Hi Fiona N, thanks! Scary thinking about us both in the kitchen together everyday though
You can make this for me any time! Looks delicious!
Hi Joanne, YTF is really fun to make too!
Man, I wish I could’ve been there! So delicious, reminds me of home.
Hi leaf, this meal was really delicious and in the comforts of our home too.
Such an awesome dinner party idea. It’s a shame that young tau foo is so hard to track down in Sydney!
Hi Helen, I’ve yet to track down a good one in Sydney, let me know if you do
What a fine feast to share with friends. And I like your choice in wines. Would you believe that Villa Maria Sauv Blanc is the first Sauv Blanc I ever tried? It still remains one of my faves.
Hi Carolyn, we had loads of the Villa Maria sauv blanc when we were in New Zealand too. It’s one of the better NZ sauv blanc too in my humble opinion.
Yes, yes, I too would like to know where I could get YTF? Pease? I really miss this, especially the eggplant and okra. But unfortunately, the rest of my family doesn’t like this so I can’t really be bothered just cooking for one. Looks like you had a wonderful, and very delicious party. Yum!
Hi shaz, it’s strange that I was never quite fond of YTF when I was a kid but I love it now, really great comfort food.
I am bookmarking this! I did not realised that I can get instant fish paste to use to make YTF! Me, very ignorant….hahaha….Glad that you share these. I was drooling so much. Thanks! I have frozen home-grown okra. But I might have to wait for eggplant to be in season again in our garden.
Hi Diana, this dish would be perfect for all the vegetables from your garden!
I love meals like these where the cooking happens at the table – it’s great to all interact in the cooking as guests. You could dip almost anything in hoisin and have me hooked!
Hi Keely, it’s a really fun and interactive way to entertain friends at home!
Yet another great dish that I have never tried but would gladly eat! What a gorgeous dinner party idea! Great pictures too! You guys are fantastic!!!
Hi Manu, this is not one of the most popular Malaysian dishes but certainly one of the tastiest!
What a beautiful party you two hosted! I love the idea of adding fish paste into okra and tofu skin (my favorite!!). I don’t get very good fish paste around here so I haven’t used it for a long long time. Now I have a huge cravings for the fish paste!
Hi Nami, I guess if you really needed to, you can make your own fish paste since you have a great fish market in SF but I wouldn’t do it too if I had to make my own fish paste
God this looks Divine!!!! What a wonderful melody of flavors, colors and texture. Love it.
Hi Reem, I have to agree it looks beautiful with all the colours and also tastes great too!
I love when you post those funny dialoges between you and Mysaucepan. The two of you are just a great couple! 😀
I’m always astonished by your fine sense of aesthetics. (Well, I actually shouldn’t wonder, because you love music so much. :)) The way you set the table is just wonderful. I’m totally in love with your buddha. And I think I’ve never seen such a wonderful way of simply arranging bananas and cherries on a dessert plate. Maybe I’ll have the honour to join you for dinner one day?
Hi Kath, thanks for your comments. The buddha is one of my favourites because it looks so calming at night. I just thought of the bananas at the spur of the moment – had to try something attractive for all the dessert lovers. And you can join me for dinner any day!!
omg that looks like an awesome meal! is the chili really spicy to be eaten like that?
Hi sugarpuffi, the chilli is meant to be eaten that way as in all the stalls in Malaysia. Some people are a little apprehensive as it can be spicy but some people love the heat from these babies!
I will probably never eat this delicacy- no one in my family cares for okra or fish paste- so it was wonderful to eat it with my eyes in this post!
How long did it take you to prepare for this party? I love the setting- love the idea of finishing up the cooking at the table- and love all the photos.
Thanks so much for sharing!
Hi heidi, I’m not sure if this is really a delicacy because it is really comfort food. I never used to like it when I was a kid but I think it’s really delicious now. The preparation time is short because we can get ready made fish paste here in Sydney. I won’t do it if I have to make fish paste from scratch.
I am starving now – really. That was quite a “something you can’t find in a restaurant”.
Hi Tammy, I have never come across this dish in a Sydney restaurant but they are everywhere in Malaysia
Everything looks great but what really caught my sight was the plate full of delicious-looking veggies like eggplants, okra, and the chilies – oh those chilies. That plate to me is a wonderful feast! Thank you for sharing this mouth-watering post.
~ ray ~
Hi wok with ray, thanks for dropping by. The plate of chillies, okra and eggplant is the heart of this wonderful dinner!
Hey, I’ve been to Giant Steps 2 years back!!! Hahaha it’s a cool place. Thanks for your second entry. Check back for the round up on Merdeka Day!
hi babe kl, I should visit Giant Steps when I’m at Yarra valley next. Thanks and for some reason, I can’t post a comment on your blog.
What a great idea for a dinner party! And that YTF steamboat is genius.
Hi Su-Lin, it’s one of my favourite ways to have a dinner party having everyone participate in the cooking!
What a great youg tau foo party!
OH my, that’s quite a party you had there! Everything looks sooo good! We love to eat hotpot, in fact we recently did with tom yum broth and slices of fresh salmon (and okra, beans sprout, shrimps, whatever you could think of it was in there).
You are so lucky for having fish paste ready for you to use. I haven’t come across them here, so if I want it, I’ll have to make it myself. And to be honest…nothing tastes better then homemade =)
I forgot how great it was to stuff meat or fish/shrimp in a veggie! Thanks for the reminder.
That’s a lovely party and everything looks delicious! I miss yong tau foo! I have to make my own meat paste here in the US as I can’t get the right kind of fish. That chee cheong fun looks good too!